Van Wishard describes the final stage of the apocalypse archetype as the “rebirth of belief, culture and civilized order in accord with the archetypal expression of the new truth.” Edward Edinger says it’s when “there begins to appear the possibility of a conscious relation to the Self and its wholeness.” And here’s what we get from Revelation 21: 1, 4:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Got all that? Me neither. What happens after all the revelation, judgment, and destruction we’ve been talking about is obviously a whole lot of New, but what precisely does that mean, and how does it come about when the personal apocalypse we’re going through is something as unheavenly as job loss, financial ruin, health crisis, etc., and there’s still a lot of earthly life yet to live?
A couple suggestions. First, if we get just one thing from the revelations of personal apocalypse, it’s that we got something we never expected, and what comes next isn’t anything we’ve ever known. Therefore we have no choice but to break from the old, because the old is broken. We need to quit, but quitting isn’t easy. As Seth Godin says in his book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick):
Quitting feels like a go-down moment, a moment where you look yourself in the eye and blink. Of course you are trying your best. But you just can’t do it. It’s that whole Vince Lombardi thing. If you were just a better person, you wouldn’t quit… I’d rather you focus on quitting… as a go-up opportunity.”
How can quitting be a “go-up” moment? Well, for one thing, it can signal the end of apocalyptic suffering. Consider these words, from an unlikely source:
All experience hath shown mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
“The forms to which [we] are accustomed” is what our apocalypse has gotten rid of. It’s time to leave our emotional attachments to them behind. If we don’t, we’ll just perpetuate our suffering.
Second, as we go about quitting, let’s not give up on myth and metaphor. They’ offer powerful assistance because they grab big, universal experiences and compress them, make them intense and accessible. They work because they force us to wrestle out of them the meaning we need in the here and now.
Consider, for example, the caterpillar-to-butterfly metaphor. It’s so profound and perfect that it feels like just another dose of sugary greeting card optimism, but real metamorphosis has no sweetness and light about it. The moment when the caterpillar is finally enclosed in its shroud is the moment when we can be certain there will be nothing left of it when the butterfly finally emerges, and tracing the molecular bond between what it was and what it becomes will always be cause for awe.
We don’t get metamorphosis with an aggressive and willful grab, but from a willingness to believe that the bond between ourselves and our post-apocalyptic lives will be forged in the cocoon’s darkness and mystery. In order to make our own personal journey to our personal “new heaven and new earth,” we need to journey past our old understanding and ability and resourcefulness, to the point where all that’s left is to spin the cocoon around ourselves, and make our transformation inevitable.
What could that possibly mean for you? Good question. And there’s an answer already forming in the depths of your soul that’s just what you need to hear. To listen will take courage, and to play it out will take vision and determination.
And speaking of which – you were wondering about the source of that earlier quote?
The Declaration of Independence.