A Review of The Revelation of Saint John
Aug 31, 2006 09:57 AM
by Zack Lansdowne
The following review appears in the current (Fall 2006) issue of The
Esoteric Quarterly, which is an online journal published by the School for
Esoteric Studies. Copies of this journal can be downloaded at:
The Revelation of Saint John: the Path to Soul Initiation, by Zachary F.
Lansdowne. Weiser Books, 2006. Paperback, 236 pages. US$22.95.
The Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, was an enigma in
its own time. The text has more in common with Jewish apocryphal and
"wisdom" literature than with the gospels and epistles that precede it. Its
inclusion in the New Testament was opposed in the third century by Eusebius,
bishop of Caesarea, but supported by church father Origen who was accused of
Gnostic leanings. Selection was finally announced in 367 CE by Athanasius,
the controversial patriarch of Alexandria, and confirmed 15 years later by
Pope Damasus I.
The Book of Revelation is traditionally attributed to "Saint John," the
fisherman brother of James. However, despite the opinions of early church
apologists and some modern esoteric teachers-and despite its internal
reference to "John"-most scholars today conclude that the author of
Revelation is unknown. External and internal evidence suggests that it was
written neither by John the Apostle nor by the author of the fourth gospel
and the Johannine epistles. Revelation remains an enigma, quoted by
commentators whose interpretations vary as widely as the religious agendas
the text is forced to support.
Zachary Lansdowne's The Revelation of Saint John: the Path to Soul
Initiation provides a new and refreshing interpretation based on esoteric
psychology. With his extensive knowledge of esoteric teachings he helps us
penetrate the biblical text's arcane symbolism. Publication of the book this
summer is particularly timely since his article, "The Beasts of Revelation:
Glamour and Maya," appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of the Esoteric
Quarterly. We can now put the article, which addressed just one of the book's
topics, in the broader context of the author's research findings.
Like Revelation itself, the book is divided into 22 chapters, a number not
without significance since it equals the number of letters in the He-brew
alphabet and the number of Major Arcana in the Tarot. Dr. Lansdowne's main
thesis is that Revelation is a practical manual providing the basic
knowledge required by the disciple and leading him or her through the many
challenges confronted on the journey to initiation and enlightenment. For
example, Chapter 4 relates to the practice of meditation, while Chapter 16
discusses the seven trials through which the disciple attains purity of the
lower self. Chapter 17 discusses the disciple's need to overcome ego.
Lansdowne provides a verse-by-verse interpretation for each verse in
Revelation. For example, the first verse of Chapter 17, which the King
James Bible renders:
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked
with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of
the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
is interpreted thus:
One of the seven chohans comes to the aspirant and says, "Raise your
and I will show you the truth about your ego, which is a controlling,
corrupt, and deluded sense of identity supported by your many emotional
reactions. (Page 145)
Extensive footnotes are provided explaining particular interpretations and
directing the reader to supporting references in the esoteric literature.
With respect to the verse just quoted, we are told that the disciple has
earned the assistance of the seven chohans, or angels, by having overcome
the trials discussed in Chapter 16.
One of the most famous verses in the whole of Revelation (21:1), which the
author notes is an echo of Isaiah 65:17:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first
earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
is interpreted as:
The aspirant realizes that the spiritual and physical worlds are united, for
his earlier perceptions of separate worlds have passed away. He realizes
that the emotional world does not exist. (Page 185)
We are reminded that, in esoteric teachings, the physical and emotional
planes are not considered "principles." At a sufficiently high level of
consciousness they will be recognized as illusory.
The Revelation of Saint John: the Path to Soul Initiation is an attractive,
carefully researched, and well-written book that will please all serious
esoteric students. To those with a special interest in the esoteric
philosophy and psychology of late Judaism, Neoplatonism, or early
Christianity, it will have even greater appeal. However Zachary Lansdowne
insists that, even though Revelation was included in the Christian New
Testament, it speaks to people of all religious persuasions, in all periods
of history. His careful analysis helps make the text accessible to this
broader readership. We enthusiastically recommend the book.
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