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The Women of the Revelation

The Women of the Revelation

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Published by: bde_gnas on Jan 09, 2014
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The Women of the Revelation
Zachary F. Lansdowne
The Revelation of Saint John, the last book of the Bible, has been a mystery ever since it first appeared about two thousand years ago, because it is written entirely in symbols. This enigmatic work includes two vivid feminine symbols: the celestial woman of chapter twelve and the seductive prostitute of chapter seventeen. What do these symbols mean?Revelation 12:1 describes the celestial woman as “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Many diverse interpretations have been proposed for this woman: the constellation Virgo in which the moon is at the feet of Virgo, Mary the mother of Jesus, the people of Israel, and the heavenly church. Revelation 17:1 describes the seductive prostitute as “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.” Most commentators interpret this symbol as representing the ancient city of Rome. (In this article, all Biblical quotations come from the Authorized (King James) Version, unless stated otherwise.)
Psychological Approach of Interpretation
Helena P. Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, provides the following key to interpreting the Revelation. She writes “The fact is . . . the whole Revelation, is simply an allegorical narrative of the Mysteries and initiation therein of a candidate, who is John himself.” (
Isis Unveiled 
, vol. II, 351) This quotation suggests the use of a psychological approach that takes every symbol as representing some aspect of an aspirant who is on the spiritual journey. Edgar Cayce, the well-known medium, makes a similar point:Why, then, ye ask now, was this written (this vision) in such a manner that is hard to be interpreted, save in the experience of every soul who seeks to know, to walk in, a closer communion with Him? For the visions, the experiences, the names, the churches, the places, the dragons, the cities, all are but emblems of those forces that may war within the individual in its journey through the material,
or from the entering into the material manifestation to the entering into the glory, or the awakening in the spirit. (Van Auken 158-159)If we do use a psychological approach of interpretation, then what do the celestial woman and the seductive prostitute represent? Let us consider the meaning of these symbols by analyzing the first five verses of chapters twelve and seventeen.
The Celestial Woman
The first five verses of chapter twelve in the Revelation read:1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. 2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.With the psychological approach, the woman depicted in the first verse can represent some aspect of an aspirant who is on the spiritual journey. One clue is that the woman is in “heaven.” Arthur E. Powell, in his book
The Causal Body and the Ego 
, uses the word “heaven” as a synonym for the mental plane and we all know the feminine form is a symbol of receptivity. For example, Isaiah 54:5 states, “For thy Maker is thine husband,” indicating that a human being ought to have a feminine, or receptive, relationship to the divine. Accordingly, the woman is interpreted as the aspirant’s mental body, or mind, when it has this receptivity.The meaning of sun and moon is similar to that in Joel 2:31: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” According to Acts 2:20, the apostle Peter quoted this passage from Joel on the day of Pentecost, believing that the events of that day fulfilled Joel’s prophecy. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles heard and followed the inner voice, referred to as the Holy Ghost or Spirit, instead of relying on external teachers and teachings. The sun being an external source of light, can represent an external teacher or authority figure, while the moon, also an
external source but of reflected light, therefore represents an external teaching found in books.Clothing often symbolizes the nature of the wearer, as shown in Zechariah 3:4: “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” Thus, “clothed by the sun” may indicate a nature influenced by external teachers. Placing something under one’s feet can signify dominance, and so “moon under her feet” would indicate an understanding of external teachings.The number twelve is known to represent the divine pattern or organization. For example, the year was divided into twelve months (I Kings 4:7), the people of Israel into twelve tribes (Genesis 49:28), and twelve apostles were chosen by Jesus (Matthew 10:1). Blavatsky uses a star as a metaphor for an “ideal” (
Collected Writings 
, vol. 11, 262). Accordingly, “a crown of twelve stars” symbolizes mental ideals of spiritual development.Mabel Collins writes in
Light on the Path 
: “When you have found the beginning of the way, the star of your soul will show its light; and by that light you will perceive how great is the darkness in which it burns” (21). Here, “soul” is a synonym for the Divine Principle in a human being. In the second verse, “child” is taken as the soul, “cried” as a call for the soul’s guidance, and “pain” as the distress from seeing what is revealed.In Revelation 12:3 the dragon is equated with both “Satan” and the “Devil.” The original Hebrew word for Satan means adversary, which is the translation used in Numbers 22:22. Thus, the great dragon symbolizes the great adversary that an aspirant must eventually face and overcome on the spiritual journey. Blavatsky refers to illusion as this adversary: “Only when the true discerning or discriminating power is set free is illusion overcome, and the setting free of that power is . . . the attainment of Adeptship” (
Collected Writings 
, vol. 12, 691). Accordingly, the great dragon is taken as illusion.The color red can indicate conflict, as in Nahum 2:3: “The shield of his mighty men is made red.” Thus, the dragon’s red color indicates that illusion engenders conflict. Indeed,
A Course in Miracles 
 says, “Without illusions conflict is impossible” (vol. II, 130). John 8:44 makes a similar point: “the devil . . . was a murderer from the beginning.”

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