This is a transcript of a video from November 2019.
Thanks to Heather Lee for the transcription and JP Marceau for the edition.
This week, my subscriber count has gone up to 66,000, and passed all the way to 66,700. As it was sixty-six thousand, six hundred and something, I started to get the inevitable comments about 666 subscribers, and so I thought, hey, why not? It seemed like it would be a good opportunity to do a video on the number of the beast, 666. Of course, I will not be able to completely exhaust that meaning. The Book of Revelations is extremely dense, and there is so much going on; the Antichrist and the two beasts and the prostitute… there’s so much going on. So, I’ll try to be a little dense, staying within the subject of 666 and say as much as I can, knowing that whatever it is that I say here is not the final word on anything1.
One of the reasons why it’s interesting to look at the number of the beast, 666, in terms of symbolism is that there are a lot of things we can get from it. One of the things we can get is a lesson on how to do symbolic interpretation and how symbolism affects the world. If you want to understand 666, the best way to do it is to go back and to look at where the number appears in the Old Testament or in other places in the Bible, and then you can see if there’s a pattern among the different places where these numbers appear, and it can help you understand what 666 is referring to. Another way to do it is to look into the Church Fathers. Several of the early Church Fathers – especially Saint Irenaeus of Lyon and Saint Hippolytus of Rome – discussed the Antichrist and the notion of 666, and they followed the same pattern. In their text, they go back into Scripture and try to see where some of these occur to help them understand 666.
One of the important things to talk about at the outset is that, as symbolism acts as the pattern of reality, sometimes what happens is a variation on the edges, and with time, the variations tend to snap back to the pattern. So, sometimes you’ll see modifications in stories, or you’ll see specifications which are there to bring the pattern back or to emphasize the regularity of the pattern. That seems to be what apocryphal writing does. For example, if, in a story there is a basic pattern in the Bible, and the pattern is there but it might not be crystal clear for those who don’t see these things, apocryphal stories, later, will emphasize some aspects; will add some details to help you understand. For example, when Christ was born, it may only say that he lay in a manger. That is an important symbol, but in very, very early traditions, it says that the manger was in a cave; the stable was a cave. So, you have to understand the manger in relationship to the cave and to the ass and the ox, which are not mentioned in Scripture but which are there in tradition. All of those patterns are there in the manger, but adding these details on the side helps us to understand what is already there in the text.
Now, one of the things that happened at the beginning of Christianity was that there were actually two textual traditions about this number of the beast in Revelations. Some texts read 616, and some other texts read 666. And, what happens is that St. Irenaeus of Lyon tells us, “No. What is preferable is 666 – this is the real tradition.” And what that does is it snaps the pattern back into place. And so now, when you look at the number 666, it can help you understand what it’s referring to in terms of the number of the beast; why that number, in particular, is so important.
There are many modern interpreters who want to relate the numbers 616 and 666 to Emperor Nero. I think there’s some relevance to that. It’s not completely irrelevant to think of it that way, but we have to be careful not to reduce things to that either. I think it’s in Hippolytus of Rome, where he talks about partial accomplishments of a prophecy. He says, “There might have been partial accomplishments of prophesies in the past, but then there will be the fullness of the accomplishment in the future.” You can understand that as: “Here’s a pattern, and there are manifestations of this pattern, but then there’ll be a final, total revelation of the pattern when everything comes together in the end.”
So, let’s look at 666 and what makes it so interesting. In the Scriptures, there are two beasts; there’s a beast which comes out of the sea and there’s a beast which comes out of the Earth. The beast which comes out of the sea is a more powerful beast. I’m not going to go into all of the details, but the beast which comes out of the earth is a secondary beast. The secondary beast of the Earth wants everybody to worship the first beast and creates an image of the first beast and breathes life into this image, and makes the image speak. And that convinces everybody. Everybody’s impressed. And those who don’t worship this image of the beast are punished; they’re killed. And then the second beast has placed on people’s hands or people’s foreheads the name or the number of the beast, which is given as 666, and it says that it is the number of a man. And so, the Church Fathers understood that as the number of a man in the sense of how, in ancient languages – in Greek and in Hebrew (especially in Hebrew, but you can kind of do it in Greek) – the letters in the alphabet corresponded to numbers. So, each name would have a numeric value. That’s what we call gematria; the capacity to mathematically interpret text. The sums of the words or the sums of the letters come together and create mathematical value. It’s not a type of interpretation which Christians do a lot of these days, but in the early Church, if you read Irenaeus and you read Hippolytus and other Church Fathers, they do tend to dabble in that kind of reading. And so, the idea is that it is the number of a man.
Irenaeus gives us some possibilities of names. Interestingly enough, there’s one name whose referent I cannot understand: “Evantheus”. But the two other names that he gives – “Teitan” and “Lateinos” – are extremely relevant, because the one refers to the ancient gods that are pushed out on the margins and were connected by some of the early Church Fathers to the Nephilim before the flood; this idea of this mixture between angels and men which created the monsters, and the other name, Lateinos, is, of course, related to Rome.
Now, it is obvious that all of this seems to be talking about Rome. And so, I’m going to take you through the steps and slowly and you’re going to start to see the pattern. There is a relationship between Rome and Babylon in terms of the whore. There’s also a relationship to Rome in terms of the beast, which has seven heads like the seven hills of Rome. And so, they’re trying to show this relationship between Rome, the beast, also the whore which is sitting on the beast – all of these things are definitely related.
If you look at the number 666, Irenaeus goes back into the Old Testament and he looks at the places where these types of numbers appear. First of all, he relates it to the 600 years of Noah; that is, Noah lived for 600 years. And he says that 666 is an image of all the horrible things, all the perfidy, all the blasphemy which occurred within the 6000 years of Creation. You have to understand the way the ancients thought; that Creation was six days, and then there was the day of rest. The years of Noah were 600 years, and then there was the flood. And the whole world lasts 6000 years, and then it’s the end of the world. You have to understand it that way. The six is related to the notion of man; is related to the idea of the sixth day of Creation. The key to understanding 666 is to understand it in relation to the sixth day of Creation. That’s why he mentions the 600 years of Noah and also the 6000 years of Creation. So, you can see this pattern; imbedded structures – we talk about this all the time – imbedded within themselves.
Irenaeus also relates 666 to the statue which was built by Nebuchadnezzar in the story of Daniel. That statue was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits across. And the connection is important, because in Revelations, it talks about how the second beast makes an image of the first beast, and then breathes life into it and asks everybody to worship it. So, the fact that he would connect that to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar is extremely coherent, because in the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king has the statue built and asks everybody to worship it, and those who don’t worship it get thrown into the fire.
So, we have now the six related to the six days of Creation, related to the 600 years of Noah, the 6000 years of the world, and also this statue, also related to Rome and to the Titans – who, in early Christian thinking, would have been related to the descendants of Cain, who have mixed and have created these monsters. So, as you see, I’m trying to take you along on this path to help you see how, if you look at the different elements and you look at what the Fathers say and you look at what is in Scripture, you start to see how these things are connected today.
The one thing that makes it difficult for people to understand 666 is that they tend to see it as this dark, ominous thing. You see it like in heavy metal aesthetics; this dark image, subversive, all this stuff. But if you see it that way, you’re going to miss out on what 666 is, because the symbolism of six has more to do with a kind of fullness of Creation; it has to do with the fullness of six days. So, the full cycle is seven days. That is, the complete cycle is seven days. But that completeness includes rest, includes the part that can’t be calculated, includes the part that doesn’t work, includes the margin, the buffer; all of this stuff that I’ve been talking to you about. Now, the six are the days of work and are therefore related to man and to the notion of the days of work. So, hopefully, you can already start to see the problem, you could say.
Matthieu, in his book, gives us an amazing thing. There are so many things in Matthieu’s book which are said so simply, but actually give us some wonderful keys in order to understand how the world works. Matthieu gives us the key to the circle and explains that, if you use the radius of a circle to measure a circle, you get six lengths, and then you get a seventh length which is a remainder; which is not part of the six measurements. And that seventh day – that’s the completeness. Not the coherence, but the completeness; the totality which includes the fringe, which includes all those things that can’t be counted.
That’s what seven represents: completeness. Six represents a kind of perfection of work. And so, that is why the symbolism of six and the symbolism of 666 is not a dark symbolism; it’s actually a symbolism of light. There are reasons why, for example, the devil is represented as an angel of light; it is because it is the pride of light, it is the pride of work, it is the pride of accomplishment which gives you something like the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, which is to think that man is everything – to think that reason, that our capacity to accomplish is all. It’s like the Tower of Babel. That is what the six refers to in its negative connotation. Of course, six is not negative, nor is 666, but the negative aspect of something like 666 would really be a kind of perfect system; a system which the people think is completely worked out and has everything in it, despite the fact that it’s actually lacking the rest part. It only has the work part in it. So, you can understand why it has to do with control, and in Scripture, it has to do with control of trade. You have this notion that it’s about calculating; it’s about accounting for. So, you have this idea that if you don’t have the sign of the beast on your hand or on your forehead then you cannot participate in the counting; you cannot participate in the world of exchange. That’s why it ends up being, in its negative aspect, and image of control.
It’s interesting because there’s another place in Scripture where 666 appears. Actually, there are two other places. One is where it says that Solomon encountered the Queen of Sheba and had this interaction with her. Then it says that Solomon gave her a bunch of stuff and she went back to her land. So, this foreign princess, this foreign entity, this unaccounted-for entity, goes back to her land and then it says the amount of gold that Solomon acquired at the end of the year was 666 talents. So, your intuition is right away going to see that there’s a relationship. You’re going to see that there’s a relationship with the idea of trade, because Solomon got that money from trading with the people from Lebanon, from Tyre, from all these different people. You have this idea that, at the end of the year, this is what Solomon counted. And that is the notion of counting; this idea of accounting for everything; of having a system which we think is the totality of all.
People have had an intuition about this before. I remember when I was young, people talked about how 666 was going to be like a microchip that people put in your hand, or in your forehead, or whatever, and if you don’t have that then you won’t be able to trade. The intuition is actually pretty good in terms of symbolism, because it is the idea that, if you don’t have your identity accounted for, then you cannot participate in the trade. You cannot participate in the world. So, the Queen of Sheba goes away, and then there’s just this notion that there’s this completeness. On the one hand, that is why Solomon was able to build the temple, to build this image of the Holy City, was able to build the structure of worship – that’s the positive side. But on the negative side, it was also this trying to account for everything that gave Solomon problems.
There are certain aspects of reality which you should not account for. In Scripture, it’s the Sabbath. In Scripture, it’s the Jubilee. In Scripture, it’s the corners of the field that you have to leave for the foreigners, that you don’t want to count. You don’t want to gather the corners of the field. You also want to leave a fringe on your vestment, you don’t want to completely tie up the knots of your clothing. You don’t want to completely close the system.
And so, the problem that happens when you try to account for everything is that you get this insane system that creates a weird tyranny of the exception, because it’s trying to account for the exception. When we see the explosion of the recognition of all these marginal identities, what we’re seeing is the process of something like this notion of 666. And you see it not just in that sense, but in the sense that, for example, you could account for consciousness completely.
An image of this is in the vision of artificial intelligence. It’s interesting because there are a lot of these things swirling around today which can help us understand the problem of 666. Many of you have probably seen the speech that Tim Cook – the CEO of Apple – gave to the ADL. If you have not seen it, it is very much worth your time to watch it, because he himself wants to portray himself as embodying these marginal identities, and then what he talks about is the creation of an artificial intelligence which he describes as “the god out of the machine”. And this god out the machine will solve our problems; the problem of hate speech, the problem of hate in general, the problem of excluding these marginal identities. He wants to account for everything, and he believes that he can create an image of man and he somehow believes that he will be able to breathe life into it so that it becomes this consciousness, and that this consciousness will then be put up above us as an authority and will decide for us who is excluded and who is included, in the desire to actually include all the margin. So, in order to include all the things that should not be accounted for – things that should exist on the fringes in terms of potentiality and in terms of exceptions and all of this – we want to now contain it all, and we want to control it. Those who won’t bow down to this image of man – to this golden image – will not be able, ultimately, to participate in the system. Those are the ones who will be excluded from the system; not the marginal identities, not the exceptions, but those who will not recognize the totality of their system; that their system accounts for everything. Those are the ones who will be excluded and will be thrown out.
That’s the whole image of idolatry. That’s the whole image of pride itself – the problem of believing that it all stops here. All of it stops here, and you can recognize that you celebrate and ultimately you worship the image of man – that you worship reason, that you worship science, that you worship technology, all of these things. As we look at where the world is going, it seems that we are, at least potentially, going in that direction.
Now, in terms of the trading, we’ve already seen it. We’ve already seen how in creating this system of control, with online banks and credit cards and all of this, we end up having a perfect system, you could call it. And if that system believes that it’s self-sufficient and doesn’t see its own ideology, we’ve seen how it will be willing to exclude certain people from participating in it because they don’t recognize this idol. So, I think that that’s really important to understand this in terms of the image of 666.
Just to support my theory, I think it’s important to look at the number itself and understand what 666 is as a number. It’s actually an extremely powerful number. It’s actually an image of perfection to a very strong degree, and there are many reasons why it’s that way. The first reason is, six itself is extremely powerful, because one plus two plus three equal six. The first three digits – very important ones – are unity, duality and multiplicity. That’s what one, two and three symbolize. You add those up and you get six, so it’s a very important number. Not only is it the sixth day of Creation; even mathematically, it has a lot of power. It has a lot of importance.
Now, if you look at 666, for example, I can just show you how powerful it is; how 666 is like six on steroids, you could call it. Six times six is 36, right? If you take one through 36 and you add them up – you go: one plus two plus three plus four plus five… all the way to 36 – you get 666. So, if you add all the digits up to 36, you get 666, and 36 is six times six. So, there’s a lot of stuff happening in those numbers.
Now, when I talk about how 666 is a symbol of light and is not a symbol of darkness, that can mean light in the bad sense; in the sense of self-sufficiency. We’ve talked about sins of the right hand; sins of pride and all of that. 666 is one of the most famous magic squares. Among people who know about this stuff, there is a very famous magic square, which is a six by six square in which, if you add each column, you get 111, and if you add each row, you also get 111, and if you add it all up, you get 666. If you see it visually, you can see that it is this square; this kind of image of perfection – perfection of work is the way that I explain it, or of extreme coherence. And so, it’s very powerful in that sense.
So, we have to be very attentive as these patterns play themselves out. As these patterns start to appear to us in the world, we have to not look for the Ozzy Osbourne, dark Satanist who is going to be wearing all black and looking like a ghoul coming out of the Earth. That is not what 666 looks like. 666 looks like a luminous system that seems like it contains everything and can control everything. And that is why it is so seductive. That is why it can delude us if we’re not careful, because to not participate or to not, let’s say, worship this system can exclude you from the discourse. It makes it very easy to compromise in that sense.
Hopefully, things will not get worse. This is really my hope, but as we’ve seen in recent years, even credit cards and some banks deny access to people – which I told you has to do with counting – and when it says the number of a man, of course, the Church Fathers interpret it as counting the name of a man, but it’s also the number of man; that is, six is the number of man and man’s activity. So, when we see these human systems that are all-controlling, that is when we have to be careful and suspicious, especially when we see them start to exclude people from participating in them because they don’t acknowledge their narrative, let’s say. It’s very dangerous.
So, hopefully this will give you a little hint on 666. We’re already at half an hour for this video. I don’t want to go too much into it. There would be a lot more to talk about in terms of understanding the city, understanding Rome, the relationship to the temple, also to the city as being this image of the titans, Cain, Edom, Rome… There’s so much to talk about. Maybe at some point I can talk about those other relationships, but hopefully it will give you at least some food for thought.