Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gog and Magog: Ruminations

Last week I promised to meditate on Gog/Magog while vacationing. This is what happened.

Riding from a carnival. “Something’s happening!” my son yells. “Something’s happening!”

I was shamefully unmindful, caught instead by the realization that each age receives the prophecies it deserves.

We receive what we request.

I considered the two prophecies: Bush proclaimed himself as ben David set to rectify his father’s Persian setbacks—while others decried Bush as Gog himself.

But these are just twin visions operating in the same prophetic space. I can see the two armies clashing as clearly as the valley viewed from the hillock. Yet I also sense a blind spot, something horrible, unseen and looming.

Norman O. Brown, considering H.G. Well’s sense that Mind had reached the end of its Tether, saw a snarling dog (yo!). Only holy madness can break Brown’s leash—ever lunging forward. But it seems to me that the better metaphor might be prophecy as territory.

We are still exploring that prophetic space set in Revelations, discovering new valleys with new interpretations—but outside of this territory is blankness, and our civilization is winding down as we run out room to expand.

“Something’s happening!” my son shouted for the third time.

And then he pooped his pants.

My wife frowns while she sleeps.


  1. This is a very insightful post in addition to being funny. I was especially struck by the idea that we are still exploring the prophetic space in Revelations. As the Feral House book has it, we are indeed very much living in an Apocalypse Culture....we can't seem to get over the end of the world...always right around the corner. Y2K, Mayan calendars etc.

    There are some beautiful lines here Gid. The two armies clashing as clearly as the valley viewed from the hillock. Our civilization winding down as we run out of room.

    The comical yet somehow ominous conclusion.

    I think you've really got something here. Keep those ruminations coming, plz!

  2. Thanks, D -- There are a couple of unintellible bits in that post that I'll need to unpack at some point...

    Meanwhile, regarding Bush W as messiah ben David and his father as messiah ben Joseph -- have you heard the two messiah theory? (I'll tell you, it's crazy how much Christianity collapsed such a wide array of earlier thinking.) Look at how well the two messiah theory fits our puzzle:

    "When the death of the Messiah became an established tenet in Talmudic times, this was felt to be irreconcilable with the belief in the Messiah as Redeemer who would usher in the blissful millennium of the Messianic Age. The dilemma was solved by splitting the person of the Messiah in two: one of them, called Messiah ben Joseph, was to raise the armies of Israel against their enemies, and, after many victories and miracles, would fall victim Gog and Magog. The other, Messiah ben David, will come after him (in some legends will bring him back to life, which psychologically hints at the identity of the two), and will lead Israel to the ultimate victory, the triumph, and the Messianic era of bliss."

  3. I am somewhat familiar with the "two messiah" theory. If I'm not mistaken this is the premise of "The Messianic Legacy", a sequel of sorts to "Holy Blood Holy Grail" which, btw if you haven't read, you should. It's highly entertaining and chock full of interesting info, even if by dubious reasoning they come up with some pretty wild theories (Jesus bloodline, Priory of Sion). HBHG as it's known has spawned a huge industry of books on this theme so it's worth reading for that alone. An entire genre of conspiracy theory and alternative theology was born of this book. Even "The Da Vinci Code" was pretty much lifted from its pages.

    All this is apparently based on an elaborate hoax, which itself is a fascinating story.

    But back to the two Messiah thing, I've also seen this as interpreted to mean John the Baptist and Jesus. One a spiritual pillar, the other a military one. Often in this Jesus as Messiah becomes more of a "freedom fighter" figure than an apostle of peace.

    Alas, it's all quite complex and subject to so much lost context I fear one can take the Bible and Jewish traditions and simply run with them, pretty much justifying whatever you come up with along the way from the texts themselves, cryptic, contradictory.

    Which is pretty much what we see today, innit?

    A bit of a babble, I know; still only one cup of coffee in me....

  4. I'll have to check out HBHG ... thanks for the recommendation!

    As for the texts being cryptic & contradictory, I'll quibble slightly to suggest that the texts are not necessarily cryptic (although they may be). Bear with me here as I ramble ... The texts are certainly contradictory, both in terms of logical inconsistencies (e.g., God created Women by rolling up some mud or by pulling a rib outta Adam?) and in terms of contradicting the reader's expectations (e.g., I thought that God was all All Knowing, but right here in Bible it seems like he regrets destroying the Earth with a flood, and how can he regret his actions if he already knew the outcome?).

    So in order to reconcile the contradictions, one can either assume that:

    a) There were human authors and editors who introduced/created human errors, or

    b) The text is divine and without error so anything that looks like a contradiction must actually have some cryptic meaning (e.g., allegory), or

    c) (And I'm just making this one up off the top of my head here...) The text was written by humans who purposefully introduced things that seemed like contradictions but in reality were just cryptic elements introduced because the writers were scared to tell the truth, or were not able to capture the truth via human language, or only wanted to reveal the truth to people who were smart enough to push through the contradictions and understand the true cryptic message. This possibility suggests a gnostic reading...

    Anyhow, regarding our current occupation with the end of times, Freud wrote in Civilization & Its Discontents, 1930 (which is well *before* the atom bomb was even theorized, I think): "Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man. They know this, and hence comes a large part of the current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety."

    cf, The End

    And speaking of unpacking the cryptic meanings, let me shout out again that your last post was a spectacular read on the events. Keep the historical cryptanalytics rolling!!

  5. Blake interprets the Apocalypse as being the destruction of Error. God doesn't destroy the wicked literally, he destroys the illusions which cause people to behave wickedly. The two messiahs seem to me to be versions of the two faces of god, jesus and satan. satan is the agent of god's destruction. christians made him the king of hell. but even there he is doing god's dirty work. it is like robert michum in Heart of the Hunter with LOVE tattooed on the knuckles of one hand, and hate tattooed on the knucles of the other. Any oposite can be viewed in this way. Blake also said that the violent reconquest of the holy land described in Bible, which served explicitly as the model for the european conquest of the americas, was intended ironically. the obviously evil behaviour, commanded by god, is an example of how we are not supposed to behave. anyone who says god wants you to slay and burn all of your enemies and heap up their forcible circumsized foreskins is lying. there is a lot of religious thinking, from Philo, to Maimonides, to Spinoza to Vico, which reads the bible as an imperfect transmission to humans, via the prophets, of gods will and purposes. god speaks to humans in the language they can understand. It is not the language of reason but the language of the poetic imagination. therefore the bible can never be read literally, and its contradicitions are to be explained imaginively. people like Graves see it as a palimpsest, over-written texts, with parts expunged or re-written, to serve whatever the current myths of power are. In graves case, these all come down to opatriarchy, and the elimination of any reference to the White Goddess. of course, to an atheist it is all fairy tales. by fire or by ice? not with a bang, but wimper!

  6. oh, the typos! my shame is Logocentric, fer shur

  7. So I'm walking by Jimmy John's subs today & I see this white Solaris with custom South Dakota plates: GOGMAGO! Unbelievable! I'm like totally scoping out the line in Jimmy John's for a guy with red hair & horns! Soon as I can I'm googling Gog Mago, and ... it's a freakin' golf course! WTF?

  8. @jon:

    Thanks for the posts! Norman O Brown, who I keep going on about, is quite into Blake, considers him to be a True Prophet following the line of Jesus and Muhammad. I don't really know much about Blake, but between your post and Brown, I can see that I should learn more. Sounds like he has some interesting extensions on Gnosticism.

    Your palimpsest comment is interesting, too, and right in line with these prophetic layers I've been writing about. "Palimpsest" is in this light a great metaphor than I never considered, perhaps being slow on the draw.

    As for atheists, I'm an atheist, too (pardon the assumption but typos create contradictions w/ the reader's grammatical expectations which then invites a cryptic reading of the posts--chuckle, chuckle--kidding, of course).

    But all the atheists I've talked to seem to arrive at atheism through reason and I've even know a couple atheists who yearn in their hearts to believe and to have the comforts of God. Me, tho--it's the opposite. My dad was a Southern Baptist preacher (so these Biblical tales have had much more impact on my live than just fairy tales), but when I try to open my heart, nothing happens. Zilch.

    Yet reason tells me there must be a god of some sort. Why? Because if there is no god and the universe is some giant game of billiards, how did free will arise? The eight ball doesn't just suddenly get all "I think therefore I am," and pop a cap into the six ball for bumping into him.

    And I can't convince myself that I don't have free will no matter how hard I try.

    As long as I'm going on with these deep & hevy thotz, hey, whimper v. bang? My money's on us humans wiping ourselves out of existence first, *unless* we can get settled on another planet or moon, and then launch out to another solar system to protect from the sun going supernova. If all that happens, all bets are off. We could stick around long enough to learn to control planetary climate systems, and then control stars, and eventually someday someone will learn how to slip-step right outside the universe and reach over and gently give it a little hug to bring it back together just enough to warm its heart and stop the big freeze.

    Oy! But enough, enough of my midrash apocalyptic dwellings. I need to switch gears and find a funny line of postings to pursue here for a bit.

    So ... what did Godzilla say to Mothra?

    Let's go find someplace to eat!

  9. @Mr.D:

    I assume you know, but it never hurts to say, that I wish you'd been here in person to see me give my quibble so you could've seen the big smile on my face and the twinkle in my eye and heard the clink of our bottles as I winked.

  10. Too much to comment upon....but lots to mull over. I tend towards the palimpsest idea. That and a long series of translations thus all the errors that go along with it. Hence you have sculptures of Moses with horns instead of rays of light coming off his forehead! Then when it comes to ideas rather than relatively straightforward descriptions. No way most people are gonna understand what was intended to be written.

    I have to read more Harold Bloom on this....he argues that we basically can never fully grasp authorial intent. There are only "good" and "bad" misreadings. I don't know how exactly he distinguishes the two hence, needing to dig deeper. I know he's written a lot on the Bible, and Blake for that matter.

    Also, reading "The Cosmic Trigger" by Robert Anton Wilson is almost LoS 101. He has a lot of interesting anecdotes which are like Gid's license plate encounter. I would add that at the time of the "Feral Houses" post I'd just finished one book and was awaiting the arrival of two more books published by Feral House! It seemed significant only after I'd finished the first of the two I'd been a-waiting.

    Also yes, the Gog Magog golf course. I'm surprised you hadn't seen that before Gid. Apparently it draws its name from the hills of the same name among which it is situated. The archeologists have found lots of weapons in the hills, as well as skeletons showing signs of a violent death. Hence the Gog Magog association. Shades of British Israelism....

    Jon, I know you've got your own blog to tend to, but why not whip up a LoS post for us? I mean, anyone who can bring Robert Mitchum into a discussion of the two Messiahs is the proverbial shit. (And that's a good thing.)

    Cryptic? Our own ignorance is a great source of the mystery, I suppose. But there is of course the intentionally coded, the apocalyptic (in the non-doomsday sense) which leads us down all sorts of rabbit holes....

  11. Also, I'd love to clink glasses as well. The house can accommodate many visitors...

  12. if I have anything for LoS I will certainly send it along, thanks. But I will have to clean up my spelling and grammar....Funny about the atheist business. I too am an atheist from experience, not conviction or reasoned argument. I'd love to believe in god! things would be so much better. and i've never heard free will invoked as an argument for god. Interesting. i figure one in nine hundred and ninety nine trillion times one of the nine hundred and ninety nine trillion billiard balls does something weird, and then keeps on doing it. Clink.


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