Revelating from the John
Generally speaking, I leave Biblical explication to others eminently more qualified.
However, in the process of some research for a book I am laboriously laboring over, I came across something so compelling that I thought you might want to read about it.
This is from Revelations 13:18, of the Christian New Testament:
Here is wisdom — let them who have understanding consider the number of the beast: for it is the number of humanity; and that number is six hundred threescore and six.
The common belief is that this is a warning.
It is also most assuredly guidance and advice.
But – what about?
Note that the oldest source documents we have for Revelations are in Greek (though some argue Aramaic or Hebrew). We’ll use the Greek version here.
From the passage above, the underlined word “wisdom” in Greek is sophia. We all strive for wisdom, the highest level of human being. The underlined word “understanding” is the Greek word nous, and can be thought of as the higher mind, or where authentic rational thought processes take place. Day-to-day normalized and rational activity occurs at this level. Keep in mind that understanding alone does not lead to wisdom, primarily because of the “beast,” which is ignorance, sensuality, violence, anger and passion without restraint, and that is the lowest level (thērion). Please note that while I use the word “level” here, these are not discrete entities, but locations on a continuum – with no end and no beginning, per se.
The ability to consciously manage all three levels and achieve harmony and synthesis is what yields spiritual enlightenment. However, the attractive and intrusive power of the beast makes this very difficult.
You must appreciate and always remember that we are admonished in the passage that the number of the beast is also the number of a human. The essential Greek concept/word to keep in mind is phrenes or φρένες.
Let’s examine this word φρένες (phrenes) in more detail.
This is a very complex concept from Greek thought, dating back to Homer (circa 750 BCE) and beyond.
The phrenes is that which holds or contains our entire thinking process or continuum, including the potential for wisdom (sophia) and understanding (nous) – but both are engaged in a never-ending “discussion” with the beast (therion). The fundamental reality of the phrenes (without proper instruction, training and guidance) is a human who lives an emotional life without rational thought – it is characterized by irrational action and ignorance. Raw instinct rules, not rational thought.
The potential is there, but it must be cultivated. This is old news — the ancient Egyptian Ptahhotep (think 4000 years ago plus) wrote that, “No person is born wise.”
You could easily argue that the mind of a beast (animal) is – without human understanding and wisdom to guide it – basically the same as the untrained (and unrestrained) phrenes.
Thus the real warning in Revelations is that the doom of life (without sophia and nous) is humanity himself – beware the inner beast living without self-control in complete ignorance of the higher values of life.
It should be of more than passing interest that the letters of the Greek alphabet have numeric equivalents. They are shown in the table below (you can research this for yourself):
Again, here is the Greek word for phrenes – φρένες – and here are its alphanumeric equivalents:
Phi, Rho, Epsilon, Nu, Epsilon, Stigma = (phrenes) =
φ = 500
ρ = 100
έ = 5
ν = 50
έ = 5
ς = 6
Oh, look, the total of the word is 666.
Six hundred threescore and six, just as Revelations states it.
What does this mean?
Well, for starters, unless humans strive to achieve understanding and the proper use of their mind, they will never achieve wisdom. Without wisdom we really are doomed as a species.
When you pause to look at the news of today, and what certain political parties are advocating as national/global policy, you begin to see that this warning from Revelations about φρένες or phrenes, is of particular relevance – we are becoming a society that feels but does not think, a society that acts but does not contemplate the meaning and consequence of those actions. We have elevated emotions above rational thought as the measure of intelligence.
This passage from Revelations is about the future of humanity.
When irrational thought and ignorant passion overrule rational discourse, cooperation and compromise, we really are doomed as a nation (and a planet) because the people who believe that way wish only to rule the world for their own benefit and – if understanding and wisdom do not prevail – the values of such people will dominate the mind of humanity.
They may look human, but they are beasts.
If you forget the highest values of human life – if you forgo wisdom – the beast will rule.
Do not permit that to happen.
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