Catholic Doctrinal History Imaged in the Pyramid and Apocalypse

Summary

There is a way to look at the sources of God’s Truth as a hierarchy of five levels of truth, as well as levels of evidence to support their legitimacy:

  • God, the Trinity and Incarnation
  • The Supreme Apostolic Successor, the Papacy
  • The General Apostolic Succession and Oral Tradition
  • The Written Tradition, Scripture
  • Reason

As you ascend the list, the degree and certitude of truth increases in each source, but, at the same time, the evidence for the source as legitimate decreases. This means the most reliable source of truth rests on the weakest evidence and the least reliable source of truth rests on the strongest evidence. This is vividly imaged in the Angel with the scroll in Apocalypse Chapter 10. The scroll can obviously be God’s truth from all facets, and the above analogy is easily seen in that his right foot, or the stronger foot, is resting on the sea, or the weakest foundation, and his left foot, or the weaker foot, is resting on the earth, or the strongest foundation.

The Pyramid of God, His Nature, and His Sources of Truth

In antiquity, the pyramid was an ominous sign. It shewed forth the continuation of Babel, that blasphemous materialistic grandeur pursued in the place of God and ascending to God that the Lord had vanquished temporarily by confounding the human tongue. More specifically, Egypt, a beast as it were, simply picked up where Babel left off, only in the form of a single nation, a single tongue, rather than the whole of humanity under one universal tongue. The great worldly wonder and spectacle symbolized the tyranny of pagan man--selfish, polytheistic, and self-deifying--then using God’s only Chosen Ones to build their magnificent edifices, oppressing them in slavery, much like the renewed Babel of Pagan Rome persecuting God’s New Chosen Ones in the Incarnate One’s Covenant.

Yet, the beauty of God is that He can take the things that pagans distort and use them for His own holy purposes. Toward that end, what we will now probe is that this frightening spectacle of arrogant materialism has profound analogies for two great holy realities: the wondrous ineffable Mystery of the Trinity and a theology of the hierarchy of sources of Catholic truth in relation to two key characteristics of sources: on the one hand, the degree of truth and reliability of the source and, on the other hand, the evidence for the source as legitimate.

It does work! Let us probe them!

The Pyramid as Image of the Trinity

As for the pyramid as Image of Trinity, consider the profundity: The point at the Top is God, whose Three Divine Persons emanate from the One Godhead and shine down upon humanity with their Love, even as the point of the pyramid spreads out in three directions down to base of the earth.

There are three edges of the Pyramid that all share the common point. That is, all three Divine Persons share the One Godhead and emanate from it.

Thirdly, each side is connected to the other two, in so far as Each Divine Person relates to the other Two in some way (The Son and Holy Spirit proceed from the Father , the Father begat the Son and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son)

And finally, each side is distinct from the other two, even as each of the Divine Persons are Distinct from one another.

The Pyramid as Image of the Hierarchy of God’s Truth

With regards to God's Truth, we can say the following initially: First of all, we can speak of hierarchy of sources of Catholic truth:

God, the Trinity and Incarnation The Supreme Apostolic Successor, the Papacy The General Apostolic Succession and Oral Tradition The Written Tradition, Scripture Reason

If you ponder these for a while, you can see the following: the higher up you get on this list, the MORE truth you can get from the source by itself, BUT, the EVIDENCE for the source as legitimate gets LESS. We will expand on this momentarily. For now, note that this makes the sources like a pyramid, where HEIGHT represents DEGREE of truth, and WIDTH represents EVIDENCE that the source is legitimate.

Now, to elaborate further. We can prove that God's Sources of Truth are like this pyramid in that, again, as you ascend the pyramid, truth increases, but the evidence for the source of truth becomes narrower. How?

Well, simply analyze it. Let us begin with Reason, which is at the bottom of the pyramid. Reason is the widest part of the pyramid because it is the most evident source of truth. How? Because all men have reason since they have intellect of soul. This is why, whereas God may not hold a person liable for being a Christian (not knowing about Scripture), God will hold him accountable for what is evident from our unaided minds: the existence of a Creator who made the Creation and a self-same evident natural law, the basic principles of the Decalogue (revere the Creator, honor legitimate authority, do not kill, do not be unchaste, do not steal, do not lie). Yet, at the same time, though having the greatest evidence to support it, reason has the least degree of truth within it. In fact, reason only testifies to what we just saw above: a Creator and Natural Law. It contains no Divine Revelation, no record of God's salvific actions in history, or revealed doctrine on supernatural truths that no man could know on his own.

When we rise to the next segment of the pyramid, we have the Scriptures. These are less accepted in the world as reason, and so less wide at this succeeding level. Indeed, the whole New World knew nothing of the Scriptures till the Old World brought them to them. But the Scriptures are still the most evident source of truth among all Christians, since they are the only source that they all share. That is, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all have Scripture. However, of the this source of truth in Christianity, when taken by itself, it is the least reliable source, since it is highly susceptible to misinterpretation without the Sacred Tradition that comes from legitimate Apostolic Succession in general, that is, the Bishops and Oral Word of God. And this great tendency to ambiguity and misrepresentation is the blatantly visible disunity among the myriads of Protestant communities that cannot, collectively, agree on very much of Christian doctrine, despite the fact that they all share a common Bible to study.

Now, we rise further to the next higher source, the Bishops and Oral Tradition, which is less evident in Christianity, seeing as Protestants cannot see the evidence for it. Moreover, the testimony to the reliability of Apostolic Succession is less in the Writings of the Early Fathers than the testimony from Scripture. That is, the ECF Writings are saturated through and through with Scripture quotes, but there are far less quotes in the ECF’s Writings that speak of the authority of Apostolic Succession and Tradition. That is why Apostolic Succession and Tradition in general is less evident as a source of Truth than the Written Word of God, the Bible. However, the Tradition is much more reliable than just Scripture by itself for truth, for it provides, in its supreme function, the doctrinal backdrop and interpretation to Scripture that is not always immediately evident to the unbiased student of Scripture. For this reason, the Orthodox, who ascend the pyramid above Protestants, have much more truth than Protestants and are subsequently much closer to us than the poor heretics who are still to this day being "tossed to and fro by every wave of doctrine."

Next, of course, is the special Bishop who sits atop all the others, Peter. With Peter is the fullness on earth, for Peter is the tie breaker of tie breakers in doctrinal dispute. That is, if Protestants are living on the sand of Scripture, which can hold their house up for a time until the rains come, and if the Orthodox are building houses on general earth away from shore, who shall withstand greater weather, nevertheless, Catholics who are faithful to the Church's teaching have houses on the firmest foundation possible, the rock of Peter. And yet, is it not plain to all scholars that whereas there are multitudes of testimony from the Fathers to General Apostolic Succession, nevertheless, there is less testimony about Peter's special role, so that the special authority of the papacy is less evident than for General Apostolic Succession. Wherefore, the Orthodox yet cannot bow before Peter and allow Him to fully serve them, even as Peter's block at the top of the pyramid is narrower than the section of the Bishops and Sees in general.

Finally, the singular top point is the Trinity and Incarnation themselves, which are the most incomprehensible of mysteries. And yet, those in Heaven who behold the face of the Trinity and Incarnate One know far more than any Pope shall ever know on earth. For, even the Pope, for all his infallible wisdom, still sees only dimly, as in a mirror. Only in the other side, when we see God as He is, will we see "face to face."

The Trumpets of Apocalypse 7-9 Traverse the Pyramid!

Now, we ask, is this pyramid unconnected to history, or unrelated to Catholic doctrinal development? ABSOLUTELY NOT! What we will find, momentarily, is that PRIMARY DOCTRINAL HISTORY OF THE CHURCH PERFECTLY FOLLOWS THE PYRAMID FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. And even more so, might we even find in SCRIPTURE this TRAJECTORY? YES! Where? The TRUMPETS OF APOCALYPSE.

Toward this end, let us look first, cursorily, at the Trumpets, and then the history of the Doctrine of the Church: The Trumpets are mainly in chapters 7-9 and bring with them various physical calamities on the earth and, at the same time, do not “harm” those “sealed with the Seal of God on their forehead”. Let us recall from other essays that we can see the Trumpets in a more spiritual sense as the great “proclamations” “trumpeted” by the Church in history, and those not harmed, or Sealed in the “forehead”, are faithful Catholics--ones who obviously listen to the Church in her very same teachings promulgated to all of humanity--who, by virtue of the charism of infallibility given to the Magisterium of the Church, will be guaranteed pure teaching in the intellect, which is behind the forehead, and hence not “harmed” spiritually by heresy, error, or false doctrine.

Toward this end, we should ask, what, more specifically, should the Trumpets be, in terms of what is actually “trumpeted”, or promulgated? Should it be mere idealism, in which nothing specific in Catholic dogma is involved, or could it be a veritable progression of what has actually been, and/or, will be, in her history? Well, I make a case in my forthcoming book that a very sensible and rigorous analysis of the Church’s doctrinal development proper can be made and, at the same time, very appropriately applied to the trumpets.

And what might that be? Use the very structure we have seen above in our discourse here! What we will actually find is that, in the primary phases of her doctrinal journey in the great heralding of Christ’s Deposit of Faith from Scripture and Tradition, the attacks on her epic witness have precisely followed the trajectory of the pyramid above, from top to bottom!

Simply look at it: ask oneself, what have the greater, substantial doctrinal developments and/or attacks on such been from Constantine to present, a certain apex of darkness with godlessness?

I suggest the following, which I think is quite fair:

300-700: God, the Trinity and Incarnation - Most significant heresies from 300-600 AD are attacking the Nature of God as Triune and Incarnate: Arianism, Monophysitism, Monothelyte, Nestorianism. In 630~, Islam arises, which, in a veritable sense, brings the assault on God’s special nature to a peak: like Arianism, it’s father, it fully denies the Trinity and Incarnation. But, not only is there no Trinity and no Incarnation, making God merely monotarian and Christ a mere prophet, there is the suggestion of a surpassing revelation to Christ [Mohammed, Quran]. This is the ultimate assault on Our Divine Savior, since the Church defines, “we await no new Revelation. Christ, the God-man, has revealed all, it is the final word of God to man.”

1000: The Supreme Apostolic Successor, the Papacy - the next great assault after Islam was clearly the Great Schism, which moves down the pyramid to Peter. Now, admittedly, the Filioque is a point of contention between East and West, yes, but I think it is fair to say that the primary separation is based on the dispute over the fuller understanding of the Petrine office as supreme guardian of doctrine, especially since some scholars contend that the spiration dispute is more of semantics and less that we really disagree.

1300-1700: The General Apostolic Succession and Oral Tradition - The Protestant Rebellion is clearly the next very substantial assault on the Church, but there is clearly no argument against the reality that significant moral corruption in the Church hierarchy paved the way for this radical rejection of that very same hierarchy, the next level below Peter: the general Apostolic Succession and Sacred Tradition. More specifically, sola-Scriptura, the great cry of the Rebellion, though divided in great chaos, is nevertheless generally united under the following common principle, the mantle of the rejection of not only the papacy, as with Orthodoxy, but of all the legitimate Successors of the Apostles, as well as the true Sacred Tradition, or Oral Word of God, which they preserve through the self-same handing down of authority.

1700 - 1900~: The Written Tradition, Scripture - The next great phase of Catholic doctrinal history saw a great supernatural death of much of humanity [Enlightenment...]. The massive chaos, bloodshed, division and scandal of Christian inter-hatred and confounding of doctrine clearly led to a great disillusionment with not only Christianity as a general whole, but of any organized religion that claims supernatural intervention or revelation. Hence, the Enlightenment and similar movements in Europe are rejecting supernaturally-inclined religion in favor of a merely natural religiosity, religion using merely reason for truth [no revelation, as in rationalism] and with humanity on its own before God [deism]. In this vein, obviously, any supernatural elements of Scripture are rejected. Reason, the source below us, is the only source of truth left. Too, the natural religionists, who view religion as man trying to reach to God instead of God coming down to meet man, were doomed confound their ideas even more than the Protestant heretics, since they all they have is reason, and not at least Scripture. Hence, as with the disillusionment with Christian confounding of supernatural religion, eventually man becomes disillusioned with even natural religion, and so begins to use reason alone for meaning, apart from religion.

1900~ - present: Reason - Moving into the twentieth century, especially the latter half, even reason is being cast aside in favor of brute materialism and godlessness. The communist horror is the first great manifestation: atheistic materialism, which mercilessly overran the East with totalitarianism, is utterly irrational; Vatican I defined that the Creator can be known from the things He has made. That is, reason testifies to God. Hence, atheism is utterly irrational. In the West, the assault has perhaps been more subtle, and therefore more deadly: hedonistic, relativistic materialism. This is equally irrational, but perhaps more appealing. Relativism, a certain hyper-pluralism, holds that there really is no way to know whether any one religion or moral viewpoint is better or more rational or beautiful than another, and so reduces each view to its own relative veracity. But then, in this view, each person is effectively their own god. Now that reason is gone, and all sources, the attacks are complete. Nothing more depraved in nature remains. The doctrinal assaults are complete.

So there you have it: the great doctrinal phases of the Church follow the pyramid. Hence, a correlation to the Trumpets could be rather sensible. Now, we don’t have the space here to fully elaborate, but, suffice it to say, there is at least an immediate problem, and that is, of course, there are five sources but seven trumpets. The way I alleviate this in my book is to take two sources and break them up into two phases: first attacking the source in part, then in full. I particularly do this for the Trinity and Incarnation [first heresies 300-600, then Islam] and then the Bishops and Tradition [first the moral fall of the clergy, then the Protestant Rebellion].

Apocalypse 10, The Angel with the Scroll : A Mystery of the Sources of Catholic Truth

Now for a capstone to these analogies: The mystical imagery of the pyramid as the sources of truth with two characteristics in opposite relationship [degree of truth and evidence] has a another profound parallel: the angel with the scroll in Apocalypse 11, who places his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the earth.

To inspect this deep analogy, let us first look at the Scripture and then examine it:

Apocalypse 10:

The cry of a mighty angel. He gives John a book to eat.

[1] And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow was on his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. [2] And he h...ad in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth. [3] And he cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth. And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. [4] And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying to me: Seal up the things which the seven thunders have spoken; and write them not. [5] And the angel, whom I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven,

[6] And he swore by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things which are therein; and the earth, and the things which are in it; and the sea, and the things which are therein: That time shall be no longer. [7] But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound the trumpet, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared by his servants the prophets. [8] And I heard a voice from heaven again speaking to me, and saying: Go, and take the book that is open, from the hand of the angel who standeth upon the sea, and upon the earth. [9] And I went to the angel, saying unto him, that he should give me the book. And he said to me: Take the book, and eat it up: and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey. [10] And I took the book from the hand of the angel, and ate it up: and it was in my mouth, sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

How does this relate to the sources of truth analogy? The answer is straightforward! The angel with the scroll is bearing the Word of God itself, all truths of God, which flow, as we have seen, from the aforementioned five mystical sources of truth! Moreover, we argue that just as there is an inverse relationship between the strength of his feet and the foundation he rests each foot upon [strongest foot on weakest foundation (right foot on sea) and weakest foot on strongest foundation (left foot on land)], so we have the inverse relationship between the characteristics that we considered of those sources, namely, degree of truth from the source versus the evidence for it as legitimate.

More specifically, we see that the angel puts his right foot, or stronger foot, on the sea, the weakest foundation, and his left foot, or weaker foot, on the earth, the strongest foundation. Here, the symbolism of this passage supports that the stronger the degree of truth for a source of the Word of God, the weaker is the evidence for it, whereas, in contrast, the weaker the degree of truth is for a source, the stronger the foundation for its evidence is.

For example, the Pope is the strongest source of truth on earth, the Vicar of Christ, the infallible guardian of the whole Deposit of Faith. From Peter emanates the fullness of spiritual knowledge in this world. But the evidence supporting Peter's infallible role is the least of all earthly sources of faith. Similarly, at the other end, Reason, like the left foot, is the weakest source of God's truth, since it gives only the minimal truth, natural religion: The existence of a Supreme Being, the existence of the human soul, and the necessity to keep the self-evident natural law in Creation. But reason has the firmest foundation for evidence. For, whereas not everyone has heard of Scripture, or Bishops, or even the Pope, they all have reason, even if they live remotely from civilization.

Therefore, in a certain sense, the strongest foot for earthly sources of truth is Peter. the greatest source of earthly truth. But the evidence for Peter is the least, being a small fraction of Sacred Tradition, much less than the texts from Early Fathers that testify to Apostolic Succession in general, that is, the foundation of evidence for Peter is like water, very weak. On the other hand, the weakest foot of the angel can be like Reason, which is the least in strength for truth. With reason, so much is unknown. But reason is the most evident source of truth, since all men on earth have reason. Therefore, reason, being the weakest source of truth by itself, nevertheless rests upon the strongest foundation of evidence, imaging that the left foot, or weaker foot, was placed on the strongest foundation, or the earth.

And would this analogy of the feet itself not truly provide the MYSTICAL key to unlocking the trumpets and doctrinal development theology we have seen? That is, that the nature of the Church’s doctrinal development would have to follow this trajectory, by the very nature of the sources and these characteristics, itself IMAGED BY THE VERY ANALOGY OF THE ANGEL WITH THE SCROLL AND THE FEET AND LAND AND SEA! More specifically, we mean that since the truths are ordered in this way, from strongest degree of truth to least, and, at the same time, from least evident to most evident, so the dragon would have to assault them in this order. After all, the dragon has to work with what is, even if he does not like it. And toward that end, since we see that the sources have been attacked from least evident to most evident, would it not suggest that this would be the best way for the dragon to accomplish his goal? Yes! For, would a lawyer attempting to make his case would ever start out attacking his opponents strongest, or most evident, cases, Goodness, no! Rather, he will start with the ones with the weakest evidence and work down to the most evident.

And, hence, this Scripture of the Apocalypse 10 suggests further support for the theory of the pyramid of Christ's truths and the Trumpets.

Addendum: In the Mouth Sweet, in the Stomach Bitter: The Illuminative Way

Regarding the mention of the scroll being sweet to taste but bitter in the stomach, I see a very profound parallel to the illuminative way of the saint. Here, apocalypse 10, the scroll that is sweet in the mouth but bitter in the stomach can image the reception of Divine mysteries to the soul as it journeys in illumination. The Truths of God are sweet as one grows in understanding and contemplation of them, for God’s truths bring joy to our desire to understand and probe the beauty of Our Maker and His ways. But they are bitter to digest, since the fallen world does not receive our newfound profundity with such enthusiasm, even as, in the last 1700 years, a sure Illuminative Way of the Church, the Church's intimacy with the Deposit of Faith has grown, which is sweet to taste, but it has been bitter in the stomach, since the outside world has grown ever colder to her evolving depth of Mystery.