The Apocalypse that St. John experienced never represented the end of the world as Christian religious lore has made millions of us believe. The Apocalypse that St. John saw in his vision was his own. He was able to write about it in such detail partly because of the many times he had had the same experience in the past. His imagination, of course, played the major role when he later put his story together. All that terrifying grandiosity expressed in the Apocalypse is mostly the product of St. John’s exalted imagination. None of it ever pertained to the Universe as a whole. It was always all St. John’s personal interpretation.

But the personal can be Universal from the perspective of monistic cosmogonies. In the long run, St. John’s repeated death experience is equal to the experience of death that all of us have gone through time and again. Apocalyptic stories resonate in our minds because we all have gone through our own personal Apocalypse an innumerable amount of times. In other words, we all share in our recollection of the after-death experience depicted in the Bardo Thodol. We have all been frightened by similar apocalyptic visions in the past and, obviously, the great majority of us have failed to overcome those fears; otherwise we wouldn’t be here sharing this very same “reality” once again.

To overcome the fearful visions that St. John saw would represent the ultimate liberation from the shackles of reincarnation. If St. John had actually died at the moment of his vision, his deep devotion to Jesus would have obviously been strong enough to pull him out of the jaws of that mystifying transcendental state and lead him into “salvation” which would have meant attaining one of the higher levels of Consciousness in the Eternal Afterlife. This type of liberation by devotion is contemplated in the teachings of Bhakti Yoga, one of the main four branches of Yoga, and is explained with considerable clarity in the Bardo Thodol as well.

St. John’s revelation may also be comparable to the moment of Realization that successful Jnana Yoga practitioners attain, except that St. John’s experience appears heavily tainted with hallucinations and impressions from previous births and deaths. His mind was not in a clear state during his vision, as it was obviously plagued with mysterious numbers and other archetypal symbolism. Other individuals who have relived similar near-death states have later been able to recount their experience with much more clarity than St. John did.

The Greek philosopher Plato, for one, tells us in the closing chapter of his famed book “The Republic,” the story of a man who died in battle and came back to life a few days later with a very vivid memory of what he witnessed in the netherworld. The story in Plato’s “Myth of Er” has some allegories in it too, but it is much less plagued with pseudo-universalistic warnings and is nowhere nearly as blurred with obscure religious symbols as St. John’s story was.

Furthermore, Er’s tale doesn't have any animal-like creatures speaking prophecies and admonitions and hardly has any terrifying visions either, which may be telling us that Er’s mind was, for whatever reason, in a clearer state when he attained his after-life level of consciousness than St. John’s was when he attained his. Both story tellers talk about each of their own personal Apocalypses, but only St. John was mystified enough to extrapolate his to universalistic eschatological proportions.

Now, if you’re wondering what could there be in common between St. John’s apocalyptic vision, Plato’s Myth of Er’s near-death experience and Jnana Yoga’s Realization of the Self, the answer is very simple: the common denominator between them is death. St John’s revelation was like a very intense recapitulation of his repeated experience of death. Er’s near-death experience speaks for itself: Er died, saw what he had to see in the after-life and came back to this world to talk about it. The Realization of the Self is attained only after the practitioners’ mind has been divested of all earthly attachments, which is basically the death of the ego, which is what happens to all of us when we die.

The association between Realization of the Self and death is also worth further clarification. To Realize the self is to regain direct knowledge of the Eternal Core mentioned above and to regain direct knowledge of that core is only possible when we fully divest ourselves of all the attachments that bind us to this world. These attachments have their root in our identification with our body; which is whence springs our identification with the rest of our earthly attributes.

The clear difference between the experience of Realization and the experience of death is, first, that during Realization we are still in possession of our cognitive abilities and, second, that when our “Super Consciousness” comes back from Realization it comes back into the same mind, the same body and the same set of earthly attributes we had before Realization.

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