The Persian King covered himself with the mantle of Light, of Ahura Mazda. The Christian Church will cover itself with the mantle of reborn Osiris. Both have to lie continually to deny that they've put the mantles over machinery and to keep the mantles from slipping off.
The fire that spews out of Leviathan's jaws is a stolen fire. It is stolen from those who come to burn the monster. Neither lives nor fire are freely given to the monster; both fall into it as a trap, and once inside they try to find a way out, to burn their way out.
The reign of Octavian Augustus the first Emperor of Rome is not a time of first things but of last things, it is not dawn but dusk. It is the time when the fourth beast, the beast with great iron teeth and ten horns, has already devoured the whole earth, has already tread it down, has already broken it in pieces.
O ye hypocrites, ye discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern
the signs of the times?
We will be trained. We will see the colossal architectural monuments rising up in the metropolis and will think they are beautiful, they are the signs of the times. We will hear the demented outcries of the idol-worshippers abandoning themselves to uncontrolled orgies and will think they are an abomination.
But there's sorcery in the air, for suddenly the orgies grow beautiful and the architectural monuments turn into abominations.
Anatolians once abandoned themselves to Cybele, Earth, mother of all Life. Greeks of Anatolia and Acheae once took part in orgies around Earth's daughter Demeter, the Grain that sprouts yearly from Cybele's womb, and around Persephone, Earth's granddaughter who caught and cradled the seeds in the nether world. The dance with Cybele and her brood was all that was real to them, all that had meaning. When the Greeks hurled themselves into war and commerce they tried to forget Cybele, but they still remembered her son the spear thrower and her daughter the huntress with the arrows, and they built shrines to Cybele's grandchildren, and they ornamented the shrines.
Roman legions carried off Greek builders and ornamentors, and now shrines rise up in Rome--but look closely: the ornamented shrines rising in Rome are not shrines to Cybele or to any of her grandchildren. Cybele's daughter Ceres-Demeter is remembered in Rome only by slaves, and not well remembered even by them. The copies rising up in Rome, copies on a colossal, intimidating scale, are absolutely empty. They are not shrines. They are nothing but monuments to the victories of Rome's legions, colossal monuments to colossal massacres. Rome's architecture is a celebration of human sacrifice. It is an abomination.
Roman celebrants of Death are raising their abominations in every provincial capital from the Nile to the Ebro. But the plazas in front of the rising monuments are becoming desolate. Only dead souls stay in the vicinity of the abominations and only bribes and circuses keep even the dead souls from abandoning the plazas. Living people are withdrawing. They sense in their guts that "This generation shall not pass."
On the Nile, people rush into their Temples to protect their gods from Roman architecture. It is a wonder there are still people in Egypt with such strength in them. They were bent by the weight of Persian tribute, emaciated by the burden of Greek Ptolemy's plunder, utterly destroyed when Roman generals grabbed all that was left and sent it to Rome. They have abandoned fields that were fertilized by the Nile since before the first Pharaoh, and rather than forcing the Nile to feed Rome, they are letting the fields revert to sand. Once the world's envy for their wealth of grain, they are beggars now; they barely eat.
Yet here they come, carrying dead Isis and her twin Osiris and the twin's double Serapis out of the Temples. It is the first time those stifled gods have been out in fresh air since the first wall was built around them.
And then the emaciated beggars perform a feat that seems superhuman for people in their condition. They begin to dance around the dead gods, they go on dancing, and the dance itself seems to give them strength, for they stop feeling the exhaustion and the misery, they feel weightless and free. And the eyes of the calf-like Isis seem to come alive, and her nostrils seem to breathe--surely this is a delusion; the goddess has been dead for a hundred and twenty generations.
Delusion or not, others who are less emaciated also see the gleam and feel the breath. Roman soldiers weighed down by their armors rush into the Temples that have not yet been turned into architecture, and they too rush out carrying Isis, Osiris and Serapis into the fresh air.
The soldiers carry the Egyptian deities to every region where Roman legions march, to every region from which soldiers are recruited; North Africa, Gaul, Italy itself, Greece, Anatolia, the Levant.
And everywhere people recognize in Isis their own abandoned past, their golden age. And they too withdraw from the architectural monuments, they too abandon the plazas, they too join the circles of dancers and feel strength returning to their limbs and meaning to their minds. They discover beauty far from the architectural wonders which are places of desolation.
Can ye discern the signs of the times?
Isis is neither an idol nor a cult, and she is not a stranger to any of the people who welcome her. Wherever she is carried, the people recognize her as Earth, abandoned and betrayed Earth, the mother and the daughter, the soil and the grain. The recognition brings people alive, and their life brings her alive.
It Italy Isis is recognized as Earth's daughter Ceres--we will still call her Cereal, but we will be trained to think farmers or agricultural zeks make the grain; some of us will think machines make it.
In Greece and Anatolia, Isis is recognized as Cybele's daughter Demeter, and her twin brother Osiris or Serapis is obviously and alter-ego of Demeter's daughter Persephone, the one who went underground, the one Demeter tries to bring back up.
And of course Isis is familiar to everyone on the Levant, even in Judaea. She's the one the fleeing Israelites danced around as soon as they reached the desert--until Moses chained them to his Law.
The reborn Osiris is also familiar on the Levant: he's the Babylonian Tammuz, the Anatolian Attis, the Greek Adonis. He rises every spring and descends every fall. He's all vegetation.
Just as new vegetation rises every spring, the dancers will rise renewed after the long night. They know this because they feel it in their limbs as they dance. A vanished strength is in their emaciated limbs. It is a strength which will vanquish all of Rome's legions.
Soldiers themselves are removing their armor. Those who don't find Osiris in Egypt find Mithras on the borders of Parthia, and they carry Mithra to every part of the realm. This Mithra was a minor light at the time of Zarathustra, but ever since Darius seized and extinguished the light of Ahura Mazda, people have been seeking the one who still carries the light. The Roman soldiers call him Mithras, the reborn, the carrier of Ahura Mazda's light. They take him as far as the British Isles. In many places Mithra merges with Osiris. Those who celebrate with Mithra acquire the fire with which to bring the new dawn.
Soldiers overthow their commanders; at times they desert in mass. Peasants leave their lands untilled in order to keep food from Roman tax gatherers. Urban people move to the country so as to avoid all participation in official activities. The well-known Jewish dropouts called Essenes stay away from Roman as well as Judaean burdens and obligations.
The forms vary. The withdrawal is vast and it keeps on growing. We would call it a generalized resistance with revolutionary overtones.
Unlike the first Persians, these resistors are not storming the Leviathan from outside. They are insiders; many but not all are zeks. Unlike the Israelites in Egypt, these resistors are not heading to a place outside, for they think there is no outside; the fourth beast has devoured the whole earth. Unlike Moses, these resistors are removing their armor before the great event, so as not to find themselves in the desert with nothing inside them but another Leviathan. Rome reveals all of Leviathan's qualities, and none are preparing to walk into a fifth beast's jaws. This is communicate in many ways; one way is: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Whatever else "the kingdom of heaven" may mean, it does not mean Babylon, Persia, Rome, nor any other Leviathan. And it does not mean Death--not yet. An ode quoted by Turner says,
And I became like the land which blossoms and rejoices in its fruits.
People are joyous, not because their end is at hand, but because its end is at hand. They're joyous because the new day will bring something as different from Leviathan as day is from night. "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" for the living, and as a living paradise, an Eden, a golden age, a community of free human beings in harmony with Isis and Osiris and all of Cybele's children: plants as well as wolves, birds and fish as well as insects. Such a "kingdom" is a new dawn; it is the end of His-story, the end of Leviathanic time.
Furthermore, people are not waiting for the dawn. They are dancing already. They are recovering the lost community before the last day. They've stopped recognizing distinctions between masters and slaves; "neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common" as the later Book will say. They've started sharing while in the Leviathan's entrails. Sharing is the heart of the lost community. It is antithetical to Leviathan's very existence, as Shang Yang knew so well. By having all things in common, the resistors are melting the beast from within its entrails.
* * *
The decline of the Roman Empire began when Rome was still a Res Publica. What happens when Octavian becomes first emperor is that the decline picks up momentum. From now on Rome is in a continual state of rapid decomposition, and so is Leviathan itself.
Parthia is as riddled as Rome with resistance, withdrawal and outright rebellion.
And the third Leviathan, the one whose existence is barely suspected in Rome, is shaken by the Rebellion of the Red Turbans, which comes close to removing the segments from which another Chinese Dragon can reconstitute itself. The Chinese rebellion is probably not related to the movement at the western extremity of Eurasia, but this is not certain. People called Sarmatians or Alans are known to Chinese and also to Roman border guards. Farmers called Sakae in Turkestan will be found (by archeologists) to have Greek objects as well as Buddhas crafted in distinctly Greco-Roman styles and it well be determined that Sakae villages lie on the silk route between Rome and China. And the influence is not necessarily from west to east. The Way, Tao, could easily travel from China to the Mithra movement in Parthia, and thence to Rome with Mithras.
The Levantine province called Judaea is only one of the Roman provinces in which the various forms of withdrawal are combined, fused and reformulated. But this is the province which will give rise to world-embracing Christianity and Islam. In retrospect, it is a misfortune for nature and humanity that so much liberatory experience should pass through the gate of such a Leviathanized region. The ways in which the resistance will be deflected, neutralized and inverted are already in place in Judaea, and in fact precede the anti-Roman resistance.
Already in the days of the early Persians, soon after Isaiah announced that Cyrus had come "to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon," the scribe Ezra and his followers showed to what use they would put their freedom. They went from Babylon to the Levant as conquerors, imposed a Book written in Babylon on Jews who had remained in the Levant, and empowered by their Book and by Persian Artaxerxes, made themselves Judges. And as Judges they reversed the Persian policy of tolerance and returned to their own earlier tradition, turning against Phoenicians, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites and Samaritans, preaching intolerance and hatred, prohibiting intermarriage with people less pure than themselves. They took prisoners into the dungeon and closed the seeing eyes. They established a Leviathan that had more in common with Assyria than with Persia because they carried within them the Sumero-Akkadian armor Moses had not been able to shed, because the god in their Temple was not an inverted Ahura Mazda but an abstracted Lugalzaggizi.
When Alexander's heirs swept the Persians from the Levant, Judaea was beset by hatred, intolerance and an ongoing civil war, but the lot of Judaeans grows yet worse when Pompey's Roman legion invades the Levant. The people defend themselves and they are devoured, sacrificed to the architectural monument Pompey raises in the capital. Thousands are sold by Pompey's businessmen into slavery.
By the time Emperor Augustus installs Herod as King of Judaea, the population in this province is as hungry for good news as the population of any other.
* * *
The resistance in Judaea will eventually be symbolized in an individual called Jesse or Joshua, a carpenter's son. The virtue of centering on an individual is that the subject is clear: the subject is a mortal, a living being, a person. It is difficult to say much about a collectivity without giving it Leviathanic traits, because a collectivity shares with a Leviathan some traits which an individual lacks. But the pitfalls of centering on an individual are the very ones that led earlier Israelites from the entrails of one beast into the jaws of another.
Actually, many of the pifalls are avoided by the Judaean resistance against the Fourth Kingdom because the Judaean resistance has more in common with the resistance elsewhere in the Roman Empire than it has with the heritage of Moses.
The "Follow me" theme is remarkably underplayed in a context where people cherish the memory of ancestors led out of captivity. This Jesse does not promise to lead them to any new Canaan, and instead of saying "Follow me," he says, "The kingdom of god is within you." This is something very different from "Follow me." This suggests that something is being repressed internally as well as externally, that liberation can only begin with self-liberation, that the repressive armor must be cast off or cast out--and this removal of the armor is something an individual can only do himself.
The Leviathanic "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" motif is also remarkably underplayed, at least by the initial resistance. The son of Mary does not say the Abstraction speaks through him. He invariably says, "I say unto you." In other words, he speaks for himself, as a single human being, which is quite remarkable in a context where previous orators almost invariably wore the mantle of Yaweh, Leviathan's very "soul." And he presents himself, not as agent, angel or messenger of the abstract Lugalzaggizi, but as a son of god or of woman or of man, namely as a living human being who eats, shits and dies like wolves, eagles, snakes and human beings. He makes it quite clear that he considers the King of Kings' priests as much a part of this world as the moneylenders; both are part of the world he has come to cast fire upon.
The fire does not come from the tradition of the burning bush but from the tradition of Zarathustra: it is a cleansing fire. The Zarathustrian Daniel had referred to "fiery flames," "wheels of fire" and "a fiery stream" as attributes of the one or the many who would consume the fourth and last beast. In Jesse's time this fire is being carried by Mithra because Ahura Mazda was swallowed by the Persian Leviathan.
We will not know how familiar the Judaean resistors were with Isis, Osiris and Serapis, but the stories or gospels composed by Jesse's friends give mounds of powerful clues.
First of all, Mary, the Mother, plays a very prominent role in a corner of the world where women had been systematically downgraded for tens of generations. She is not explicitly called Mother Earth, but her crucified son goes under the ground and then rises up, like vegetation, like Demeter's daughter Persephone, like Isis' twin brother Osiris. This news is not at the margins of the myth but at its core.
And the news goes deeper. The crucified Jesse is like Serapis the bull, Osiris's double. By his death, he redeems the living. New shoots are fertilized by fallen plants. Death is overcome, its finality is taken away, it is reduced to the stage that proceeds renewal. Out of the dead fragments sprout the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every living thing that moveth upon the earth. The bull or the lamb gives himself for the sake of the living, for Mother Earth's renewal.
This powerful affirmation of Nature and Life is at the opposite pole from "Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth." Moses called for the sacrifice of the living to Leviathan, the Artificial Man. The resistors are calling for war against life-hating Leviathan. And they don't want to wait: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Their torches are already lit. "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
This generation does not pass. This generation sees the world set on fire and watches the world burn. Dominion over the fish and over all the living gives way to celebrations of Nature's renewal, rites enacting the death and rebirth of vegetation, feasts of love (Agape), festivals of gratitude to the Earth Mother Cybele-Demeter-Isis-Mary.
* * *
Unlike the captives who withdrew from Egypt by removing themselves physically, the Roman captives withdraw by removing themselves from the artificial beast's shell while still inside. The effect is quite different. The Egyptian worm retained its coherence. The Roman one loses it. The innards become detached from the shell and acquire a life of their own. The disconnected shell, with all its armor, architecture and art, is from now on nothing but a loose funnel-shaped carcass spread over the world, keeping out sunlight and fresh air.
Already during the reign of the first Emperor, the beast's shell starts to fear its own entrails: nine thousand Praetorian Guards protect the Emperor from his Empire; and already the second Emperor, Tiberius, becomes a tool of his bodyguards.
The third Emperor, Caligula, already draws all the conclusions that follow from this: the head, totally disconnected from its innards and even from its limbs, bonded neither to nature nor to people nor even to the rest of its machine, is free to do whatever it wills, however unnatural inhuman or irrational. Only the murder of Caligula by his bodyguards saves the shell from shattering to pieces.
Nero, the fifth, stretches the artificial freedom of the Prince even further. We're told he was a decent, even a gifted person before his accession. Be that as it may, Nero quickly sees what Caligula had seen earlier: the loosened head of Leviathan has access to an artificial freedom not available to any living beings. All others are free within the bounds set by nature; they are free when they are constrained by no other bounds. The Roman Emperor is constrained by no bounds whatever, not even the bounds of his own character, for as Emperor he is as characterless as Optimus Maximus. He can be totally arbitrary; he can do anything as well as the opposite, and if he keeps his eye on his bodyguards, no one and nothing can stop him. He can murder his own mother and deify his girl friend Sabina Poppaea. He can purge, torture and kill by a mere turn of the wrist. He can experience himself as Pallas Athena and Zeus by giving Greeks their freedom one moment and taking it away the next. He can even experience the joy of the resistors by setting fire to Rome and watching it burn. He can fly as freely as the visionary of the ancient community, but unlike the visionary, who returned to his body and shared his experience, Nero keeps on hovering over nature and humanity and has nothing to share but their doom.
Some of the oddest words written are words of praise for the disconnected but lethal shell called the Roman Empire. Gibbon is going to focus on the period between the twelfth Emperor and the seventeenth, and he will call this mankind's "most happy and prosperous period." Why? Because this is the only period when Rome's emperors pretend not to know what Caligula and Nero knew, pretend that the Prince of Rome is a normal human being just like any other, pretend that all's well in Rome. Rostovtzeff will say that never, until the rise of modern America and England, "has a larger number of people enjoyed so much comfort...and never [not even in America and England] did men live in such a surrounding of beautiful buildings and monuments." Rostovtzeff's statement reveals exactly what he will be looking at.
This highly praised period is precisely the period when the machine's decomposition goes into high gear. The internal resistors trying to topple the enormous machine start to be aided by outsiders. Eventually the concerted action of resisting insiders and outsiders will free Earth from Rome.
When Gibbon's happy period begins, Nerva accedes to the Roman throne and Pan Ch'ao at the world's opposite end conquers the Tarim Basin, pushing waves of pastoral nomads westward. A wave of Scythians and Sarmatian Alans turns up in Dacia (on the Danube) and on the borders of Anatolia; some of the Sarmatians are adopted by Dacians and war alongside them against Rome. Nerva's successor Trajan, Emperor by grace of his army, can neither expel nor absorb the Danubians, cannot reduce them to a Roman province. The Roman army exterminates the entire populations of Dacians and repopulates the area with Romans, as was done at Carthage. But the Carthaginians were the last of the Phoenicians, whereas the Dacians are the visible tip of the rising iceberg.
Rome has proclaimed genocidal war against Eurasia's remaining population; it can no longer reduce yet more human beings to provincials. The next militarist, Hadrian, tries to wall the attackers out, but the wall imprisons the Roman Empire. From this point on, the hideous shell begins to crack, and no glue can repair it.
Hadrian's last victory is against resisting Judaeans, and it is as "happy" for Rome as the victory over Dacia: the Romans slaughter the rebels, destroy Jerusalem, ban Jews from the Levant, and thereby launch Jews on a diaspora and send Judaean resistors inspired by Jess proselytizing all over the realm.
* * *