Imitation, Counterfeit, and Confusion
According to orthodox teachings, the lower culmination of the world age sees the realization of the horrifying possibility known as the reign of the Antichrist. To the modern mind, with little belief in God and none at all in either the devil or objective evil, this subject raises peculiar difficulties when taken for a real possibility and not as a subject for sensational fiction. What meaning could there be in a counterfeit Christ? A counterfeit so effective that hardly anyone could unmask it? Strange as it may appear, such a being is an integral part of the traditional cosmological conception, and results logically from it, besides which this climactic evil also results physically from the collective will of man and belongs necessarily with the sovereignty of human free will.
To understand this, one must look closely at the exact nature of imitation, and of counterfeit, which is imitation intended to deceive, as with forgery, so as to see that it has a cosmological role, and is not merely a human activity. In the modern world, tangible examples of imitation are everywhere, since the modern way of life depends largely upon them. The ability to create imitations in realms where it was never possible before is pushed further and further, and in this regard the biological technique of cloning is just one of the more dramatic developments in this field. The production of imitations defines about nine-tenths of the programme of applied science. These include the replacement of natural fibres by synthetic ones, along with the spread of ever more advanced petrochemical products so that there are now very few things that cannot be made of them. The transmission of sound and visual images also comes under the heading of imitation, as also do the methods of mass-production in industry. In the realm of computer technology, the scope of imitation expands practically to infinity, since computer programs are designed to imitate every conceivable natural process down to its minutest details. A certain kind of power is achieved by this, since the imitations of reality so produced are a richer and more concentrated source of experience for most people than is the real world they are based on. Above all, computers imitate intelligence, without anyone being able to see what ill effects should arise from engaging with reflections of the real world and not the world itself. That such things answer to a universal need is only too obvious, and it is evidence of an equally universal starvation of reality.
It can be seen that when imitations are made, the thing imitated plays a part in relation to its imitations which bears an analogy to the relation of a Form to its instantiations. Even though nothing more is involved than relations between physical entities, this imitative relation is in some sort a reflection of the primordial Form-instantiation relation. The material world comprises everything which is contained in the realm of Forms, albeit in an inferior and very fragmented form, and this totality could not be complete unless the original cosmogonic relation is included. Such is the universal generative act. But if this relation has a necessary place in creation, it must still be explained why it should rise to such prominence at a time in history like the present.
The answer to this has already been indicated in what was said concerning rising entropy and the universal reduction and dilution of all individual qualities and identities. There is an intrinsic threefold relationship involved here, namely rising entropy, weakening of individual identities and qualities, and counterfeit qualities and identities. The connection between the first two of these three is direct enough, and from thence it can be seen that this creates a void which has to be filled somehow. This void is the increasing extent to which instantiated beings fall short in relation to their archetypes, that is, the increasing inadequacy with which they instance their Forms, even by the standards of material existence. A solution to this imbalance is achieved by making qualities and identities into a kind of convertible currency (both in human life and in industrial products), regardless of how appropriate they may be for the subjects on whom or on which they are imposed. The result is a world where hardly anything ever is what it appears to be. Aside from moral considerations, this condition results necessarily from the descending cosmic process which has been explained earlier. This means that there is nothing, from the most material to the most subtle, that can be held exempt from imitation and counterfeit under the conditions that prevail in the ‘last times’.
The positive side of this is that it gives maximum scope to investigations that extend knowledge, but it is at the price of loosening the connection between consciousness and its ontological roots. Those who are affected most by the dilution of identity and the confusions resulting from attempts to supply it from outside itself will also be at a disadvantage when it comes to testing the genuineness of new spiritual phenomena or supposed revelations. Hardly anyone is wholly immune from this evil, and for this reason very few will be able by their natural faculties to see through the ultimate act of counterfeit.
The Role of Evolutionist Beliefs
Another question which this subject naturally raises is how the human race as a whole could ever get itself under a direct domination of evil without first losing its mental faculties. No matter what cosmic pressures may be acting to this end, natural forces should not be able to outmatch awareness. Something must therefore prepare the way by neutralizing innumerable adverse reactions which the approach to this final state should arouse. Ideas with living force in today’s world are few, but a clear example among them is the revaluation of events made under the influence of evolutionist thought. Regardless of its scientific relevance, evolution has acquired the status of a lay dogma which teaches that everything that comes into being in the animate world does so by replacing something else of an inferior nature. Whatever is latest to appear is therefore accepted as the best of its kind so far, so that it could be said that intrinsic merit has been replaced by historicity.
The evolutionist creed is a logical fruition of the historicist mentality which places everything in a linear progression where all interest is centered on the part of the linear process which has not yet been lived through, regardless of its qualities or lack of them. The domination of this outlook makes society like an organism without an immune system, as mere historical opportuneness ensures an entry and a validation for just about anything. This historicist mentality and its works is governed above all by the Principle of Plenitude, and exemplifies it, even though progress and evolution are the only criteria which are consciously believed in. The role of the latter is quite independent of the scientific or philosophical validity of evolution, because this theory derives from a belief in progress which was adopted long before Darwin’s time. In the popular mind evolution is valid because there is always progress, and there must be progress because nature always evolves, while the circularity of this thinking is ignored.
The direction of a civilization by evolutionist and progressist beliefs makes the emergence of the Antichrist all but inevitable, because for this outlook, there can be no such being as an Antichrist. For minds conditioned by the linear progressist conception, such a being could not be less than genuine, that is, the Son of God. Such is the ultimate nemesis of the linear-historical mystique. Since the great evil of the last times is foretold in the Bible, it is worth considering whether a possible reference to the evolutionist doctrine is also contained there. Concerning mankind in the last times there is the passage which states that satanic activity will bring a ‘wicked deception’ upon many of mankind, along with deceptive signs and wonders because, as the Epistle states:
They refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth.1
This shows at very least that neutrality or plain indifference in regard to truth cannot be a viable option, for the working of the cosmic process compels everyone to embrace either truth or falsehood. The sending of the ‘strong delusion’ is in any case a providential response to man’s self-determination by his own free will. All tendencies, whether positive or negative, create a metaphysical attraction to experiences cognate with them, and make them in a way self-verifying.
The great delusion in the above passage forms part of a text which is concerned with the coming of the Antichrist, and the importance attributed to the delusion in this connection implies that it must be a false doctrine which spreads everywhere, and which darkens the understanding so that those so affected would not be able to see through the ‘power’ and the ‘pretended signs and wonders’ referred to in the same text. It is true that the modern world is full of dubious doctrines which have spread in proportion as traditional doctrine has lost influence, but the fact remains that only one of them could be said to have attained universal acceptance, and that is the pseudo-mysticism of evolution. If this could not be identified with the ‘strong delusion’ there would be no comparable belief to put in its place. The essence of the delusion referred to in the above text is a ‘faith’ which is calculated to break down resistance to the invasion of falsehood under the guise of novelty, and there is no equality among the possible contenders for this role.
One notable victory for the ‘delusion’ is the way in which it has taken away nearly all belief in the objective reality of evil or of sin. In proportion as more is known about the natural causes of behavior, the distinction between causality and justification grows lost in confusion. The mere fact that the sources of moral and religious teachings belong to the past is taken to mean that these things must be ‘dated’ and obsolete; when values are lost, therefore, this is taken to mean that they are of no further use or relevance. Such attitudes engage with a near-instinctive belief that the truth of a religious faith or of an ideology depends on the amount of worldly success it enjoys. The influence of democracy is such that the will of the majority is taken for the source of truth and value, and for this state of mind the intellectual conviction that things can only be either true or false or right or wrong in themselves appears almost as a kind of malevolence. No other result could be expected from an ideology which allows no limit to the extent to which values are made subject to the will, not the intellect.
The Real Opposite of Order
The situation described so far would not seem to have any prospect beyond steadily mounting disorder, ending with a social chaos so complete as to put an end to history. Such a perspective is also that given by Plato in his Statesman myth, where the world is rescued and restored by God every time it descends to the verge of dissolution. While this is based on undoubted realities as far as the natural order is concerned, it still does not give the full picture. Among natural forces it is indeed true that disorder is the only opposite to order, as high-entropy states are the counterpart of the low-entropy states from whence they originate. But things are very different where the subject under discussion is order created by human, not cosmic, means. There are many forms of order which, being both human and divine in origin, are created for the specific purpose of guiding minds and wills in accordance with the will of God. Such is the meaning of traditional civilizations, and order of this kind implies the possibility of an inverse kind of order which would have the opposite effect. It would certainly still be order from a short-term human point of view, while by absolute standards it would be the extremity of disorder inasmuch as it set human life at variance with the law of God. This idea has been expressed by Joseph Pieper in connection with the possibility of a final world government:
the End will not be chaos in the sense that the opposition and conflict between numbers of historical powers will cause a progressive dissolution of historical ties and structures, and finally putrefaction. On the contrary, the End will be characterized by one single governmental structure equipped with prodigious power, which, however, fails to establish any genuine order. At the end of history there will be a pseudo-order maintained in being by the exercise of power.2
While the time of the End will not be simply a time of chaos, however, the way toward it will certainly be prepared by the other things referred to, the dissolution of historical ties and structures. Destruction and confusion will be caused by the Antichrist so as to create a popular demand for a restoration of order at any price. The malefic nature of this new order will be skillfully concealed and will form a powerful illusion:
The description ‘pseudo-order’ is also valid in the sense that the ‘illusion’ is successful; it is an element in the prophecy of the End that the ‘desert of order’ of the Antichrist will be regarded as a true and authentic order. . . . Perhaps the pseudo-order of the Dominion of Antichrist, after a ‘period of chaos’ on a vast scale, such as, in Toynbee’s view, always precedes the establishment of a universal State, will be greeted as a deliverance (which would exactly confirm the character of the Antichrist as a pseudo-Christ).3
This points to a kind of world state of which the totalitarian dictatorships of the twentieth century were so many adumbrations. The popular tendency to identify the State with God is at the present time far advanced in the modern world, as people have recourse to government for deliverance from evils which in the past were accepted as willed by God. They act as though human beings had the power to elect an immunity or preservation from evils which result from the abuse of their own free will. This ad hoc attribution of ultimate power to the State is widely desired because it is seen as an empowerment of those who vote for it. Consequently, the State increasingly performs functions which are material parodies of the actions of God as provider, sustainer, avenger, enlightener, and protector. Although this power is false because it means a transfer of a power which should be inward and spiritual to a system of more or less fragile practical relations in the outside world, it is hard to oppose, because the desire for a God-substitute is so strong and so widespread. (A substitute which is even felt to be preferable to God, as it does not require the responsibilities that God requires.) In proportion as belief in God declines, belief in the power of the State increases, and with it, the range of powers over individual lives which the State can assume. If this tendency went to completion it would be bound to result in a formal claim to divinity by the head, or figurehead, of the ultimate government.
Another aspect of the ultimate anti-order of the age can be seen by means of the law of the three phases referred to in chapter 3. This law expresses an aspect of symmetry between the first and last states which occur in a progression, or between the highest and the lowest. Thus the inverted anti-order of the latter days will be as a lower reflection of the true world-order which existed in primordial times before the ‘confusion of tongues’. (According to the Talmud, Adam, Seth, Enoch, and their descendents before the Flood were rulers of all mankind.) The transition from the higher order to the lower one will be made by way of all degrees and forms of disorder which increase in number between the two unities. The realization of this final anti-order is a necessary condition for the end of the world cycle. A state of civilization which simply lapsed into manifest chaos would reduce to the tribal or even zoological level which could in principle go on for ever. Its very lack of form would make it too ineffectual to give rise to the kind of disruption implied by the End.
This disruption results not merely from a failure to manifest the archetypal realities, but from the realization of a world which positively denies or perverts them. Only a certain kind of order could do this. Neither God nor the archetypes need bring about the End by direct action, since the essential opposition to them by human wills generates the necessary negative force. An anti-order implies a rising tension between the outside world and the universal order which it nevertheless depends on. An inversion of relations in regard to God and the higher values must first take place in the collective consciousness, so that they are no longer seen as realities independent of mankind to which human wills must be subject, but rather as mere projections of human ideals and desiderata. At the same time, democracy fosters a confused conviction that there could be nothing that is not subject to the will and choice of society. This anti-order is appearing in the creation of societies where moral and spiritual norms can increasingly be violated without apparent consequences. Governments become increasingly the embodiment of this collective will to self-absolutization, and in this connection the Antichrist would appear as the personification of this kind of government.
Understanding the Great Beast
In the Bible, the figure of the Antichrist is expressed in words loaded with symbolism, principally that of the ‘Beast’ and the ‘Dragon’. The Beast may be two entities or one duplicated in some way, and it is not easy to see whether this refers to a specific individual or a collective entity. There is first a beast with ten horns and seven heads, bearing a blasphemous name, which receives authority from the Dragon (an image of the devil):
Men worshipped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’4
An orthodox explanation of this vision makes it a representation of Roman imperial power, in the form of seven Caesars, which is justified by the way in which time’s cycles can make one period foreshadow and parallel another one in the distant future. However, it cannot be wholly equated with past events, because the events of the first century ad were not followed by Armageddon, the appearance of the New Jerusalem and the end of this world age. Thus the prophetic meaning must be allowed for, as in the first place there is so much in this text which has clearly not yet happened, and in the next place, the beast is said to blaspheme against God and to make war on the saints and to conquer them, as it achieves world power: ‘And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation,’5 and so it becomes almost universally an object of worship. However, there is said to be a second beast, which arose out of the earth as the first one arose out of the sea. This one ensures that the first one is worshipped, besides which,
It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men. . . it deceives those who dwell on earth bidding them make an image for the beast which was wounded by the sword and lived. . . let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.6
There are many things in need of explanation in these texts, but above all we need to understand the meaning of ‘the Beast’ (, to therion). Two separate beings are so described, besides the being referred to as the Dragon, and this indicates that no one individual is referred to. Fortunately for the work of interpretation, the Great Beast does not appear only in the Bible, but can also be found in Plato’s Republic, where an account of this being is given which leaves no doubt as to its essential nature:
Each of these private teachers who work for pay, whom the politicians call Sophists and regard as their rivals, inculcates nothing else than these opinions of the multitude which they opine when they are assembled and calls this knowledge wisdom. It is as if a man were acquiring the knowledge of the humours and desires of a great strong beast which he had in his keeping, how it is to be approached and touched, and when and by what things it is made savage or gentle, yes, and the several sounds it is wont to utter on the occasion of each, and again what sounds uttered by another make it tame or fierce, and after mastering this knowledge by living with the creature and by lapse of time should call it wisdom, and should construct thereof a system and art and turn to the teaching of it, knowing nothing in reality about which of these opinions and desires is honourable or base, good or evil, just or unjust, but should apply all these terms to the judgements of the great beast, calling the things that pleased it good, and the things that vexed it bad, having no other account to render of them, but should call what is necessary just and honourable, never having observed how great is the real difference between the necessary and the good, and being incapable of explaining it to another. Do you not think, by heaven, that such a one would be a strange educator?7
Plato’s point of view differs markedly from that of Saint John, but their differences do not necessarily concern the nature of the Beast in itself, but rather different views of its role in society and history. For Plato it is a great, formless, many-headed, sub-personal power which stifles all aspirations to the higher values, whereas for Saint John it is something bound for perdition which has the power to drag nearly everyone else with it in the latter days, whence the terror which it rouses. These positions are in any case compatible, and the essential reality involved is the unspiritual lower stratum of human collective consciousness, driven solely by the instinctive appetites and aversions of organic existence, and per se impervious to reason. While this most unredeemed element of mankind is present to some degree in the psycho-physical makeup of every social stratum, it is nevertheless the lower classes which, qua classes, come closest to being literally an embodiment of it, leaving aside the hidden potential of certain individuals. This view is also that of Cardinal Newman in an account of one of his letters (Autumn 1871) quoted by Joseph Pieper:
He [John Henry Newman] asked, who would be the Goths and Vandals destined to destroy modern civilization. . . . He gave himself the following answer: The lowest class, which is very great in numbers and unbelieving, will rise up out of the depths of modern cities and be the new scourge of God.8
Religious belief and rational consciousness and judgement are inseparable because grace has intelligence just as much as love in its very essence. Although the converse, that intelligence should mean grace is not true when the intellective element is divorced from the rational, the cultivation of this faculty forms a vitally important basis for faith. Where minds are blocked against this development, they are not normally open to spiritual influences. The rise of social equality with its constant confusion between equal rights and equal possessions and attainments, means that society must accept anything that cannot be seen as a privilege, no matter how worthless it may be. This tendency becomes more pronounced with the passage of time, so that the Beast casts a lengthening shadow. The fact that this concerns a certain kind of collective entity pervading mankind does not nevertheless rule out the Antichrist as an individual, and one who would be the very incarnation and personification of this lower consciousness. At the same time, the Apocalypse indicates that there may well be more than one such individual, though in differing capacities.
Before considering the actions attributed to the Beast, the spiritual significance of the number 666 should be seen in the light of the system of meanings it is an instance of. This number can be derived by gematria in many ways, one of which shows it to be an expression of the name in question, that is, the Great Beast (, to mega therion) since the Greek letters of this name add up to 666 when given their traditional numerical values.9 If the letters for the Greek for ‘cross’, (stauros), are given their numerical equivalents, their total with taken as six comes to 777. Finally, if the name of Jesus in Greek, is given its numerical equivalent in the same way, it comes to 888. (These three numbers are exactly divisible by the prime number 37, because 111 ÷ 37 = 3, whence 666, 777, and 888 give quotients of 18, 21, and 24 when divided by 37.) If the Cross, 777, is understood in its wider sense as the sacrifice or mortification of the lower possibilities of personhood, by way of which the grace of Jesus is shared in, all that is represented by 666 is that which is closed by nature against identification with any higher value, and which will be nothing but itself on a certain level.
The Inversion of Religion
One of the most remarkable acts attributed to the Beast is that it wages war successfully against the saints. This is obviously not war in any literal sense, because holiness is not based on violence, and although it may mean persecution or martyrdoms, such things are in no way defeats from the spiritual point of view.10 It could therefore more plausibly be a war of ideas and values, and the infiltration of false doctrine. Believers come to accept an increasing amount of teachings which are not those of the Holy Spirit, though they appear to be. Spiritual teachings are often foolishness from a natural point of view, while making sense on a higher, more essential level, but it is always possible for such teachings to be deformed into real foolishness without this being noticed by the majority who do not try to penetrate their beliefs intellectually.
The commonest example of this can be seen from the extent to which people fail to distinguish their faith from the socialist ideologies which were created to eliminate real Christianity by means of something which functions socially like it, while being voided of spiritual content. This shows how even orthodox religion can be made subservient to the unregenerate lower collective mind and will, of which the Beast is in effect the emblem and the incarnation. More generally, the New Dispensation, which was to apply only among Christians, is increasingly taken to be applicable without restriction to all conditions of mankind, and no less to those with no faith of any kind. Thus the New Dispensation is distorted into an en bloc validation of just about any human condition and disposition as though the truth required only that one should exist. Believers who take this for truth or a valid expansion of it are only right inasmuch as it is certainly part of the Providential design for the world’s time of ending. This is because it is only with such a universal pseudo-validation that the lowest possibilities of the world cycle can be realized without restriction, and thereby the end of the age. But this results from the impersonal aspect of God and the ‘permissive’ function of the divine Will, which has no direct connection with the spiritual good of mankind.
It appears that God’s design and that of the devil come extremely close at a certain point, that is, where it is a question of enlightening and empowering the lowest class of mankind. This action can have two diametrically opposed consequences. It may lead to conversion and the assumption of a new and truly spiritual identity, or it may lead to the acceptance of every kind of advantage offered with no alteration to the original orientation and tendencies. In other words, the higher can meet the lower so that the lower can integrate with the higher, or so that the higher (what has been received from God) is reduced to a collaborator with the evil it sought to overcome. Numerically, the latter possibility is overwhelmingly the more prevalent, so that it forms the defining quality of the modern world. Such a union of power with an essential impotence is a formula for destruction.
Now that there is no longer any power on the social and political level able to balance that of the lower forces, the latter are able to take over the place which was traditionally held by legitimate power. Under these conditions leadership becomes more and more a misnomer in religion as much as in politics. At every least sign of resistance or displeasure from the Great Beast the institutional leaderships of religion, law, and politics hasten to appease it with the humility of paid servants, and ominously, no one even tries to entertain the idea that God might want anything it did not want. On the contrary, the teaching of the Beast is that service to God must be the same as service to it, and vice-versa; under this direction, the deviation that Pope Pius X once denounced as ‘the substitution of man for God’ becomes the whole programme of modernity. The lack of direct resistance to this hostile power from Christian sources is aggravated by an ingrained tendency to submit to worldly power and success, no matter how much one thinks one has renounced such things for oneself. This attitude was always justified by the belief that all power comes from God, so that submission to power must be indirectly submission to God. There is now no longer any relevance for this belief since the disappearance of nearly all traditional power structures. This means a time is beginning in which the price must be paid for an undemanding manner of being in the truth which prevailed in earlier ages when being subject to power could mean being subject to grace.
This price is ultimately a person (or possibly a succession of persons), who becomes the head and mouthpiece of the collective animal, and it matters little whether he does this by formidable supernormal powers or whether he is merely the stooge of faceless controlling groups. In any case his terrifying power is really nothing apart from sin. What the Church has always taught about witches and sorcerers applies a fortiori to him, namely, that it is only because of the inveterate sinfulness in people that he has any power over them.
1. 2 Thess. 2:10–12 (Catholic R.S.V.).
2. Joseph Pieper, The End of Time, chap. 3, pp. 119–120.
3. Ibid., p. 120.
4. Rev. 13:4 (Catholic R.S.V.).
5. Ibid., 13:7.
6. Ibid., 13:13–14 and 18. The wounded dragon, and the second Beast, who shares its power, are a demonic parody of the Father and Son in Trinity.
7. Plato, Republic vi, 493 a–c, Paul Shorey, tr. See also Simone Weil, Intimations of Christianity, chap. 7.
8. Joseph Pieper, The End of Time, chap. 2 .
9. These are as follows:
10. This does not exclude actual violence from apocalyptic scenario, of course, as, for example, the name of the angel of the Bottomlesss Pit, Apollyon, means in the Latin Vulgate Exterminans, or in Greek ‘destruction’ or ‘ruin’ (Rev. 9:11).