The Shadows of God

The First Book of Urizen; Man floating upside down, 1794 (colour-printed relief etching) by Blake, William (1757-1827)

The fall of man, seen in intellectual terms, begins as a primal misunderstanding of the true nature of God. All else follows from this, since a failure to understand Who God really is distorts our picture of every other thing, person, situation, or level of being. Where the intellect is darkened by spiritual ignorance, it can reveal to us only shadows of the Truth, false objects which the will is attracted to because of their partial resemblance to the Truth they hide, in the course of which it becomes weakened and distorted, until it can no longer will the Good—even if, by the Grace of God, the darkness of the Intellect were to be lifted for a moment, and that Good revealed.

A shadow requires three things: a source of light, an opaque object, and a field where the shadow falls. If the light is God, the opaque object, the ego, and the field where the shadow falls, the universe, then the shadows of the ego, projected by the Light of God, are false beliefs, which appear to that ego not as its own shadows, nor even as beliefs, but as the literal nature of reality: the shadows of God.

The ego, by definition, does not know itself. It tries to convince us that we can become unique and original if we submit to its magic. It forgets that egotism actually stereotypes us, makes us drearily predictable, because human egos, at root, are much alike. Our deepest fears and desires, of which the ego is composed, are very few and very common.

God is the only Reality, the sole object, and subject, of all knowledge. But when primal fear and desire, which are the seed-form of the ego, separate subject from object, so that the perceiving subject is apparently no longer God—as in Reality it always is, since only God, in the last analysis, is Witness of His own manifestation—then limited and conditioned views of Reality are born, held within the minds of limited and conditioned subjects. From one point of view, these limited views, and the limited subjects who perceive them, are the creative manifestation of God in space and time; from another, they are God’s shadows, His veils. When these shadows become thick, and their darkness intense, it appears as if God were absent from His creation. It is into these places and times of the apparent ‘death of God’ that God sends the prophets, saviors and avatars who found and renew the great wisdom traditions.

The Shadows of God By Charles Upton

If Gods combine against Man Setting their Dominion above
The Human Form Divine. Thrown down from their high Station
In the Eternal heavens of the Human Imagination: buried beneath
In dark oblivion with incessant pangs ages on ages
In Enmity & war first weakened then in stern repentance
They must renew their brightness & their disorganized functions
Again reorganize till they assume the image of the human
Cooperating in the bliss of Man obeying his Will
Servants to the Infinite and Eternal of the Human form
WILLIAM BLAKE, from The Four Zoas


In the well-known words of St Paul from the book of Ephesians, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ These principalities and powers, in my opinion, can be legitimately seen as elements of the system of the Antichrist, a system which ‘constellates’ only at the end of the aeon, but which is virtually present all throughout ‘fallen’ human history, as when Paul speaks of ‘the god of this world [who] hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not’ (2 Cor. 4:4). The ‘god of this world’ is obviously Satan, but Satan in his particular aspect as the patron of ‘worldliness’, of the organized social and mass psychological system created by the human ego in rebellion against God. The Antichrist per se represents the establishment of this system in its terminal form for this aeon via the breakthrough of sub-human, ‘infra-psychic’ forces into human history, just as Christ—and Muhammad, and the Buddha, and the Hindu Avatars—represent the breakthrough of Divine Wisdom and Love.

For many of the early Christians, the Roman Empire represented, for obvious reasons, the system of Antichrist. The Roman Emperor was worshipped as a god at one time, at least in the provinces, and the Number of the Beast, 666, is often solved as a numerological reference to the emperor Nero. The central grievance of the Jewish Zealots, the anti-Roman guerrilla terrorists of Jesus’ time, was that to require that the Jews pay taxes to Rome was an act of emperor-worship and thus a blasphemy against God,

especially since the Roman denarius in which the tax was to be paid bore an image of the emperor, and so was technically an idol in the eyes of many Jews, who, like the Muslims in later centuries, prohibited the making of any image of Yahweh, and considered any deity who could be visually represented as inherently false. That Jesus was on one level sympathetic to the Zealots, though he was certainly not a political revolutionary—any more than he was a collaborator with Rome—is shown by the fact that he criticized every known Jewish sect of his time—Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Herodians—except the Zealots and the Essenes, and numbered one Simon the Zealot among his disciples, though we can’t be sure whether ‘Zealot’ refers to Simon’s affiliation or only his character.

In the Apocalypse, the central symbol of the Antichrist is the Beast, who acts as an agent of the Dragon (Satan). Upon the Beast rides the Whore, whose name is Mystery, Babylon the Great. The seven heads of the Beast, which are seven kings, are also seven mountains upon which she sits, like the seven mountains of Rome And so, on one level, the Beast is the Roman Empire, compared by the writer of the book to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. This identification of the Beast with Rome has led certain Protestant sects to see it as a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church —an attribution which would be partly justified only in the case of the complete apostasy of Catholicism, which, in my opinion, cannot be assumed to have happened even now.

The Dragon of the Apocalypse, identified with Satan, represents a perverted spiritual order. Based on this Satanic order is the perverted social order of the Beast. And the Whore of Babylon, who rides the Beast—that is, who both guides it and is carried along by it—is the perverted psychic order of the latter days. The seven heads of the Beast, who are seven kings with whom Babylon consorts and seven mountains upon which she reigns, symbolize—among other things—the seven major faculties of the soul, which in antiquity were represented by the seven planets: the Moon, fertility and sub-conscious emotion; Mercury, thought, cunning and the ability to deal with information; Venus, love, sexuality and relatedness; the Sun, intellect, the spiritual center of the soul and source of its life; Mars, will and aggression; Jupiter, leadership ability and philosophical intelligence; Saturn, long-term planning ability, mystical knowledge and the wisdom of old age. If the Beast and the Whore ‘occupy’ the seven provinces of the soul, this indicates that the regime of Antichrist has conquered and perverted all these aspects of human life, both socially and psychologically, a perversion which is represented in Catholic theology by the seven deadly sins.

According to Martin Lings, in his article ‘The Seven Deadly Sins in the Light of the Symbolism of Number’, ‘superbia (pride) is related to the Sun, avaritia (avarice) to Saturn, luxuria (lust) to Venus, invidia (envy) to Mercury, gula (gluttony) to Jupiter, ira (anger) to Mars, and accidia (sloth) to the Moon.’ The power of the Beast over the human soul is symbolized by the ‘mark of the Beast’—who in this case is actually, according to the Apocalypse, a second Beast, servant of the first, identified as the False Prophet—which is placed either upon the right hand or upon the forehead. The mark upon the right hand symbolizes power over the will, and that upon the forehead power over the intelligence: when the intelligence is darkened, the will is overpowered as well, since it must now follow error instead of Truth.

The regime of Antichrist, then, operates on three levels, which are the three ontological levels of the human being: the material level, including both the socio-historical realm and the human body; the psychic level, embracing both the conscious and the sub-conscious mind; and the spiritual level, which though it cannot ultimately be perverted, since it is Divine, can be obscured by the powers of darkness, and also counterfeited, according to the principle that ‘Satan is the ape of God’.

The Beast, who is Antichrist, is thus the counterfeit of Christ, a perverse and distorted version of the image of God within us. Under his regime, all the powers and qualities of the human form, considered as God’s central act of Self-revelation in this world (‘who has seen me has seen the Father’ said Jesus, speaking as the Divine Archetype of Humanity) are aped by demonic forces: wisdom, love, miracles of healing and control over natural forces, and even the resurrection of the body, all will be enacted in counterfeit, ‘so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.’

See here: To Become a “Refugee”: Emigration to Sincerity or “uprightness” of Love

Evangelical Christians tend to concentrate on predictions relating to how the system of Antichrist will appear in future history and society. This is a valid and important level upon which to view the matter, though we have to be careful not to interpret scripture too narrowly, since an event recounted in a densely-symbolic text like the Apocalypse may appear in history as several different events, or trends, happening at various times. My intent, however, is to concentrate more on the psychic and metaphysical aspects of ‘the darkness of this world’, including that level of things where the unconscious mind interacts with society, the realm where the powers of darkness appear as unconscious belief-systems and social mores.

A spiritually degenerate society rules its members not only by police-state tactics, or by influencing them to consciously believe false doctrines, but also by indoctrinating them to adopt certain beliefs unconsciously, beliefs that will have all the more power over them by this very unconsciousness, since they are never brought into the light of day where they can be critically evaluated. An evil society will inculcate these beliefs deliberately, through various sorts of propaganda, indoctrination, and mind-control. On the other hand, the rulers of the society in question will in some ways be just as unconscious as the population they indoctrinate. While they may consciously lie to the people on questions of fact, nonetheless they take the fundamental beliefs they disseminate absolutely for granted, and are therefore unconscious of them. The deepest lies—the unconscious social mores and the false conceptions of God on which they are based—appear to our rulers simply as the nature of things. Because they believe in them implicitly, they need never become aware of them as beliefs. If you want to delude others, it is best to begin by deluding yourself; that way none can question your ‘sincerity’. Read more here

The “Refugee” of our Times – Sources materials