The Second Coming
I remember reading something from Terrence McKenna wherein he hypothesizes that aliens might not be the way we imagine them, coming from distant stars via metal spaceships. After all, we live in four dimensions — three in space and one in time — and even our physical models of the universe sometimes have 11 or more. Perhaps aliens are already with us, but in higher dimensions beyond the range of our senses and conditioned minds. It’s possible we could perceive and interact with aliens — or beings from different dimensions — via a change in consciousness. Instead of sending probes and spherical discs across the galaxies to the skies of planet earth, maybe they have already planted their probes on its surface, via consciousness-altering substances like psilocybin residing in the spores of fungi. Could psychoactive fungi itself be their emissaries, inviting us to commune with them through the medium of mind rather than physics?
Whether one deems the particular hypothesis plausible is less important than the notion our ideas are so conditioned by our limited experience we imagine aliens to be somewhat like us — at the very least bound by the four dimensions in which we move. That they might operate in different dimensions altogether, perhaps even dimensions of mind, is so outside our paradigm it’s rarely considered. Hold that thought. We will come back to it.
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I am not a Christian. I am Jewish by birth, and though I went to an Episcopal school, and grew up in an era where we sang hymns in chapel, I never went for organized religion. That said, I find the story of Jesus compelling as a myth and also as a moral framework. The New Testament is deep.
Jesus, the story goes, is the son of God, and he gave his life on the cross so that man could be saved. Jesus was also the son of Joseph and Mary, and he was conceived immaculately. That is, Mary was still a virgin when she became pregnant with her son. He was, in effect, an effect without a cause.
Buddhism, another ancient school of thought with deep psychological insight, has a similar notion. Beings take on ever new incarnations, driven by karmic desire. The deeds and desires of this life will propel your instantiation in the next. This wheel of samsara — or suffering — will continue until you become enlightened in which case you will not require another birth. The cycle of causation (karma) will have come to an end, though Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) may still choose a birth to help others — a karma-free (immaculate) conception, if you will.
. . .
There is talk in some circles about the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. There are cults devoted to this notion, and the Book of Revelation specifies in great detail how it will come about. It is a mistake to take the details literally. Like our contemporaries who imagine beings from different realms arriving in metal crafts only because we ourselves require metal crafts to leave our planet, those who wrote Revelation were bound by the symbols and terminology of the times.
What might some of those terms mean for us in the present? For starters, the “mark of the beast” without which no one may buy or sell has an easy correlate: QR or other scannable codes now mandated in many places of business. The “beast” will force everyone who does not acquiesce to such a system (who lacks the mark) to go without those services.
This reading probably sounds over-dramatic — so Satan’s grand plan is to keep the righteous from leaving Canada? But let’s follow this to its logical conclusion — what starts with travel, migrates again to dining and entertainment (when cases spike or a new variant arrives) then eventually to all commerce. In China, there is already a social credit system that extends to most commercial interactions, and once people are in the system, it is trivial to expand it incrementally until ours too is all-encompassing. The final vision would be a central bank digital currency of sorts, wherein every transaction — a purchase of apples or booking of a flight to Japan — would require the transfer of funds from your account to the vendor. And your account exists only in a central bank, monitored by those who have absolute power to block any or all transactions.
There are good pieces that go into this process is greater detail, and at some point, I might even attempt my own. But it’s easy to see how such a system is desirable from the standpoint of powerful actors seeking to implement preferred policies for the greater population. This form of digital slavery would make it costly to express thoughts or words not in lockstep with the prevailing agenda. A word out of line, and they could, with the click of a mouse, shut off your access to food, power or the internet. People would learn to self-censor, mouth the proper pieties, take the required medicines, “own nothing and be happy," the reign of the beast, so to speak.
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevski also foretold this state of affairs 140 years ago in the Brothers Karamazov via the Grand Inquisitor:
Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy... Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all...
And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children—according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient—and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them.
But in these dark prophecies is a silver lining. Jesus is returning to save those who reject the mark. It will be a long and ferocious battle, but ultimately those who embrace Him will prevail.
At this point people who believe that might start to look literally for a savior — is it the Dalai Lama (no, much too old!), or some other spiritual figure? It can’t be a politician, can it? Is it some artist whose work moves billions to wake up and see. No! You are imagining metal-spaceship aliens and taking the Book too literally. The second coming of Jesus would not likely be any of those things.
What if instead, it were an idea — a brainchild of a creator rather than the child of The Creator. The idea would have to be one that liberates humanity from the centrally controlled system to which everyone who wanted to eat or have a home would be inexorably enslaved. And it would have to be impervious to co-option by the powerful forces who would seek to control it. What if that idea already exists in this world now?
Satoshi Nakamoto released his Bitcoin white paper in 2009. He made a few posts, mined some coins, then disappeared untraceably — leaving the effect but removing the cause. There is no one for governments or powerful factions on whom to lean or threaten. It is not owned by or controlled by anyone. In contrast to the dystopian vision of centralized control, bitcoin is an out, a parallel system over which individuals can transact peer-to-peer, permissionlessly, and exchange value voluntarily. As such, it restores the necessary conditions for self-determination, freedom of thought and word, a creative and spiritual existence.
Like the scientific enlightenment three centuries prior that separated Church from State, depriving the ruling class of the power to decree who goes to heaven and, more importantly, to hell, bitcoin liberates money from state. It prevents the authorities from decreeing what you can and cannot purchase, with whom you can and cannot transact, and ultimately what thoughts and ideas you are able to express. In short, it puts power back in the hands of the many rather than the few. It is a peaceful opt-out from an otherwise all-powerful system. And it cannot be stopped by force. The all-seeing Eye Of Sauron isn’t extinguished by the sword; it simply runs out of funding, flickers and goes dark.
. . .
Maybe there are alien beings in flying saucers traversing galaxies to come and save (or destroy) us. Maybe God will come from the sky, save the righteous and smite the wicked too. But it’s more plausible to me that He works in mysterious ways, and just as we can achieve altered states of conscious via strange lifeforms mushrooming from the soil, perhaps we can reclaim our birthright as free and prosperous human beings via an uncorruptible ledger of timestamped truth.
For those who hope for God — or a benign strongman working on his behalf — to save them the old fashioned way, I will end this piece with a joke:
During a great flood, a man climbs up on the roof of his house to temporary safety. A boat paddles by. “Get in!” says the man rowing the boat. "No thanks” says the man on the roof. “God will save me.” The man paddles off. The water rises up to the man’s neck. A helicopter comes by, and a man inside offers his arm to the nearly submerged home-owner. “Get in!” he yells. The man on the roof says, “No thanks, God will save me.” The helicopter leaves, and the man drowns. When he gets to the afterlife, he confronts God, saying, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God replies, “I sent a boat and a helicopter, but you didn’t get in!”