DRAFT\xA0\xA0 DRAFT\xA0\xA0 DRAFT\xA0\xA0 DRAFT\xA0\xA0 DRAFT\xA0\xA0 DRAFT : FOR THE SEMINAR ONLY

The Ideology of Apocalyptic Space

Tina Pippin, Agnes Scott College

ConstructionS of Ancient Space Seminar, SBL 2003

Introduction: Space Travels to the End of Time

In the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse of John, John\x92s travels take him and the reader across a multitude of terrains: from the throne room of heaven to bloody battlefields and mass slaughter, from the chaos of the abyss to the bejeweled heavenly urban space. In this paper I employ an interdisciplinary analysis of the ways that apocalyptic spaces operate as spaces and as gendered spaces both in the biblical text and in contemporary U.S. society.\xA0 I am investigating, from a feminist perspective, how the Apocalypse of John, vilified by some in the early Christian world and ignored by many Christians today, has nonetheless had extraordinary influence as a cultural narrative, the violent terrains of which have inspired millennial movements, ideologically charged films and novels, and a \x93war on terror.\x94\xA0 Above all, I am asking how the Apocalypse works its way into our social and political spaces and practices, both real and imagined, and how these dominant end-of-the-world narratives live through movements of desire and resistance.\xA0 By focusing on how apocalyptic space operates both within and beyond the biblical text, I draw on critical studies of space (Gaston Bachelard and Henri Lefebvre), sexuality and space (Margaret Wertheim; Elizabeth Grosz), and urban and postmodern geography (e.g. Mike Davis, David Harvey, Edward Soja, Yi-fu Tuan), as well as architectural theories (especially postmodernism), utopian studies (Ernst Bloch), and studies of sacred/holy sites of pilgrimage.\xA0 Locating myself at the intersection of apocalyptic studies with these critical theories, I will be in a position to \x93read\x94 how, for example, the heavenly city functions as an \x93imagined community\x94 (Benedict Anderson) and the \x93body politic\x94 of God\x92s new (other) world.\xA0 The female body of the Bride of Christ becomes the city, a site of uneasy order and political, economic, and sexual identities. How does the city-space of the New Jerusalem function to produce apocalyptic spaces both inside and outside the text?

The Production of Heaven

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0 If some of my students are correct, I will not be a citizen of the heavenly realm in my afterlife.\xA0 My constant deconstruction of the fundamentals of the faith make me a candidate for eternal damnation in their eyes.\xA0 So I can only visit the biblical heaven, the New Jerusalem vicariously, in this world through the author of the Apocalypse of John.\xA0 This experience of plugging into John\x92s vision as given by the angel-interpreter is not unlike following Alice through the looking glass or Dorothy into Oz.\xA0 There is a crossing over that occurs when one reads such fantastic texts and enters into the space of the uncanny.\xA0 And like Alice and Dorothy, John gets more than an aerial view of the future city; he takes an extended tour and briefly encounters the head power figures.\xA0 John\x92s adventures in heaven are limited though and he has a specific task; he \x93measures the city and its gates and walls\x94 (Apoc. 21:15).\xA0 Also, John is never offered a more intimate experience of the city space; for instance he never gets to nap under the shade of the tree of life by the water of life, or sing in the choir of elders.\xA0 Many details of life in the new city are missing.\xA0 Since I am not tied to a more obedient faith-based reading, I no longer see the need (if I ever did) to follow the conventions of the narrative or of a modernist historical-critical-reading of the text.\xA0 I find an unstable text far more interesting.\xA0\xA0 Eschatology is uncertain territory, so who knows if this judgment on my soul is correct.\xA0 But for now I am free to roam about wherever I please, breaking loose from the bonds of the story and its teller.\xA0 While John is busy measuring the city, I want to sneak in and take a look around.


The only guidebook I have is John\x92s from the angel, so maybe I\x92ll write my own, a sort of Rough Guide to the Apocalypse.\xA0 I\x92ll start with this strange city.\xA0 Usually when I travel to a foreign land, I have a few necessary items: passport (and will I need a visa here?), some currency or credit card, camera and film, language phrase book.\xA0 There are the usual questions: can I drink the water here?\xA0 Are there accommodations?\xA0 Do I assume that koine Greek is spoken here?\xA0 Or is there one language in a glorious return to Babel?\xA0 Do I need vaccinations?\xA0 No, only the pure can live in this city.\xA0 Jesus\x92 body was vaccinated for us all.\xA0 What\x92s the average temperature of eternity?\xA0 I\x92m assuming I won\x92t need a raincoat.\xA0 Should I bring sunglasses (\x93. . . and there will be no night there,\x94 Apoc. 21:25; 22:5)?\xA0 Is there a U.S. government tourist security alert?\xA0 No, the city is heavily guarded (by angelic forces), and totalitarian dictatorships tend to have sparse, if any crime.\xA0 Besides, all the subversives have been eliminated.

Surely this city is not as dead-dull as I gather from John\x92s description.\xA0 I want to locate the hot spots, the highlights, hang out with the politicos and royals (\x93The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,\x94 Apoc. 21:24), get some fruit recommendations from \x93the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit\x94 (22:2), and check out the leaves of the tree of life for some of my chronic health problems, not to mention peace in the Middle East (\x93. . . and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations,\x94 Apoc. 22:2).\xA0 I wonder if I can bring back some leaves to slip into some tea at the Pentagon.\xA0 As a tourist I can play anthropologist and discover more about the requirement of the faithful of inscribing the deity\x92s name on their foreheads.\xA0 What are the doctrines, rituals, and texts of their belief system?\xA0 What is their system of government?\xA0 Benevolent monarchy?\xA0 Military dictatorship?\xA0 It certainly doesn\x92t look like a democracy here.

I am playing with an imaginary tour here, attempting to enter into John\x92s fantastic futureworld, as I enter into Tolkein\x92s Middlearth.\xA0 I think I prefer the happy Hobbit ending to such a purified future.\xA0 Each time I step, or rather stumble, into the Apocalypse as a reader, I consider that I am crossing boundaries between worlds, entering into a different time-space configuration, and encountering a grotesque tale of disaster.\xA0 One of the items I desire is a map, complete with a scale to measure distances and a key for the major sites, sort of like Tolkein\x92s guide to Middlearth.\xA0 But no map, or historical chronology of events, is possible.\xA0 The Apocalypse is full of time/s and full of space/s, so full that it is overinscribed and dense with directions and events. The text does not transcend time and space but rather overrepresents and extends them.\xA0 Every reader in every time can say, \x93The end is here,\x94 in a multitude of ways, thus continuing John\x92s vision in all possible and impossible directions and timeframes. \xA0As I read the Apocalypse of John I am touring various spaces: of the fantastic story in the text, of Hal Lindsey\x92s nuclear prophecy, of George W. Bush\x92s guiding \x93angel\x94 (\x93An angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm\x94\x97Inaugural Address, Jan. 21, 2001).\xA0 The Apocalypse has consistently claimed the imagination and the spaces of its contemporary context; the end is near, so prepare politically for reigning with God.\xA0

What do I mean by \x93apocalyptic spaces\x94?\xA0 To begin with, what then is \x93space\x94?\xA0 For Henri Lefebvre, one of the main theorists on how space is conceived and functions, space is not an empty area but is something produced in a society.\xA0 Thus space is not just an empty, static area, nor is it a purely mathematical equation or geometric formation; rather space, as physical, mental, and social is produced and read in terms of the ideologies that produced it (2001:ch.1).\xA0 Lefebvre argues that it both does and does not make sense to \x93read\x94 space, since space is first produced before it is read: \x93Both natural and urban spaces are, if anything, \x91over-inscribed\x92: everything therein resembles a rough draft, jumbled and self-contradictory.\xA0 Rather than signs what one encounters here are directions\x96multifarious and overlapping instructions\x94 (2001:142).\xA0 \x93Space is at one result and cause, product and producer; it is also a stake, the locus of projects and actions deployed as part of specific strategies, and hence also the object of wagers on the future\x96wagers which are articulated, if never completely\x94 (2001:142-43).\xA0


Next Lefebvre offers a warning: \x93The problem is that any search for space in literary texts will find it everywhere and in every guise: enclosed, described, projected, dreamt of, speculated about\x94 (2001:15).\xA0 The gaps in narrative direction and time in the Apocalypse are spaces for interpretive plugs (at least in the Premillennialist version): the Rapture with its believers flying upward; the subsequent earthly horrors of the Tribulation with the rise and reign of the Antichrist; the reclaiming of the Temple Mount; the conversion of an earth-bound remnant who join God\x92s army to defeat the Antichrist on the last day of the Tribulation; the final appearance of Christ to defeat the Beast at the Battle of Armageddon; the heavenly Christian family reunion.\xA0 In some of the U.S. evangelical versions I\x92ve read or seen, the spaces produced by these readings feel like political ads for Christian Right candidates.\xA0 Many of these endtime narratives read like advertisements for the National Rifle Association; they provide an ultimate case for gun ownership and military build up: you never know when the Antichrist will come to take your personal freedoms away.\xA0 A first, preemptive strike would have kept the Devil at bay.\xA0 Or like Bush on \x93the war on terror\x94 or God confronting the Beasts and believers, shock and awe are the dominant war policy.\xA0

Lefevbre offers \x93. . . that spaces made (produced) to be read are the most deceptive and tricked-up imaginable\x94 (2001:143).\xA0 The Apocalypse offers up so many tricked-up spaces that many readers no longer know the (abridged version in) the bible.\xA0 With an uncertain future, why not create a certainty, a narrative with directions of the last days?\xA0 Why not add a cast of apocalyptic characters, the Tribulation\x92s damned and the saved, heroes and anti-heroes, the final Christian colonization of the whole earth?\xA0 Is the Apocalypse the final battle, complete with prayers flying, guns blazing\x96the masculinist vision, in Stephen Moore\x92s terms, \x93A male fantasy of phallic proportions?\x94 (2001:180). Why would I link these violent apocalyptic narratives to the male?\xA0 Lefebvre offers an explanation:

The Phallus is seen.\xA0 The female genital organ, representing the world, remains hidden.\xA0 The prestigious Phallus, symbol of power and fecundity, forces its way into view by becoming erect.\xA0 In the space to come, where the eye would usurp so many privileges, it would fall to the Phallus to receive or produce them.\xA0 The eye in question would be that of God, that of the Father or that of the Leader.\xA0 A space in which this eye laid hold of whatever served its purposes would also be a space of force, of violence, of power restrained by nothing but the limitations of its means.\xA0 This was to be the space of the triune God, the space of kings, no longer the space of cryptic signs but rather the space of the written word and the rule of history.\xA0 The space, too, of military violence\x96and hence a masculine space. (2001:262).


Although Lefebvre is here talking about Gothic architecture, this architecture mirrored the unity of the triune God.\xA0 God is One, the Three in One.\xA0 The Apocalypse not only gives rise to such phallic reproductions; the last document of the bible is a preparation, declaration, and enactment of \x93the war to end all wars\x94 (or \x93The End to end all ends\x94), \xA0just as the beginning of Genesis was \x93the creation to begin all creations.\x94\xA0 In the beginning was the One and in the end, too; no more harassment by demons and other pesky deities and their followers.

Terry Eagleton points out that the dualities of good and evil, as seen in the demonic and the angelic, have much in common.\xA0 Satan emerged from the angelic realm (258).\xA0 In the war in heaven in Apocalypse 12:7-9 the angel army led by Michael defeats the dragon and his angels and throws them to earth.\xA0 On earth the demonic powers join to make war against those who refuse to worship them.\xA0 The demons are no longer allowed to occupy the pure space of heaven.\xA0 And when earth is purified (with everything on it destroyed), the demons are forced to descend even further into \x93the lake of fire and sulfur\x94 (Apoc 20:10) to be eternally tormented.\xA0 Thus begins the final exclusionary acts; if one\x92s name is not in the book of life, then the lake of fire is the alternative eternity.\xA0\xA0 There is death all around: \x93The martyr and the demoniac are sometimes hard to distinguish since both are steadfast for death\x94 (Eagleton: 269).\xA0 For Eagleton, the angelic has an excess of meaning while the demonic has too little.\xA0 This excess of meaning in the angelic produces a utopian society of purity (that is, of John\x92s values).\xA0 The impure are determined as such by their non-allegiance to this apocalyptic ideology: \x93The angelic is a hygienic disavowal of the unacceptable . . . in the sphere of the angelic, the dictatorship of the heart reigns supreme . . .


.\x94 (Eagleton: 259).\xA0 But this dictatorship is more than on an individual level; it extends to the political sphere: \x93Politically speaking, a perverse joy in total wrecking is either the death cult of fascism, or the extreme brand of anarchism. . .\x94 (267).\xA0 Is in the desire for and performance of the massive destruction and death in the Apocalypse angelic or demonic?\xA0 What values are being promoted in these actions?

The heavenly realm is supposed to represent the pinnacle of Christian values and a return to the \x93original\x94 paradise.\xA0 The New Jerusalem is a more perfect place than Eden; the garden is surrounded by the walled city and thereby managed and controlled, and (presumably) none of the inhabitants is going to be disobedient.\xA0 Who would ever want to leave this city?\xA0 These gates are for entrance, not expulsion, since only the purest believers are allowed inside.\xA0 If this heavenly paradise is the mirror image of the first paradise, does it entail an unknowing of good and evil, a return to an original state of innocence and connection to God?\xA0 Architect Stanley Tigerman notes, \x93Mimetically related to the original garden, the heavenly city is a way to reconnect with a divine being.\xA0 God\x92s absence is made palatable to humankind by replacing Him as the architect of paradise\x94 (25).\xA0 Tigerman gives numerous examples of human architecture as an expression of our exile from Paradise and the desire for reuniting with God.\xA0 In the New Paradise there is no need for a Temple or a Tower, since the city is the center of phallic space; no need to reach toward heaven when one is already in it.\xA0 \x93The gate of God\x94\x96Babel\x96has become the gates of God\x96twelve pearly gates of entry with twelve angels standing by.\xA0 There cannot only be words about the heavenly space; there must be architecture, too, gates and walls and thrones and the One who builds them and those who measure them.\xA0 God is the great and final architect, recreating the garden space of Eden emanating directly out of the throne.


This vision of the New Eden is supposed to bring readers peace and hope.\xA0 God will prevail over evil in the end; God will \x93take back the night\x94 for eternity; more specifically, there will be no night and no things that go bump in the middle of it.\xA0 The earth\x92s closets will be cleared of all monsters, and there won\x92t be any closets in this eternal city; in fact, there is no where to hide since everything is transparent and visible (the city \x93has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal,\x94 21:11; \x93the city is pure gold, clear as glass,\x94 21:18 and 21; the river is \x93bright as crystal,\x94 21:1).\xA0 Everything is revealed in the Revelation.\xA0 Big Brother, or in this case, Big King Daddy, prevails for all eternity.


The New Jerusalem is just one part of the geography of the Apocalypse but it has a prominent place near the end of the text and in its various cultural copies.\xA0 There is a desire in certain forms of Christianity for this heavenly city, this heavenly domain, this neighborhood in the vicinity of God\x96the most exclusive gated community.\xA0 A few years ago Michael Moore satirized gated communities on his show TV Nation; he put a gate outside a gated community (outside of Detroit, I think) and told people they couldn\x92t go through his gate if they weren\x92t members of the urban community.\xA0 Of course, Moore is playing with the delineation between insider and outsider showing the class-biased elitism of the geography of the gated community.\xA0 Moore is using humor, inverting the real, in order to push for social change and economic transformation.\xA0 The Apocalypse of John is playing for keeps; the heavenly city is only attainable by a few and in direct opposition to the abyss, the region of total chaos.\xA0 The New Jerusalem displaces those not in the inner circle of a certain belief system.\xA0 The apocalyptic violence eradicates all the \x93outsiders\x94\x96rich and poor, imperial royalty and peasant, young and old, human and nature\x96in a wild genocide of terror.\xA0\xA0

Hell is usually much more interesting than heaven, but it is not my primary focus here.\xA0 Plus, I\x92m no longer too sure of the difference between the two.\xA0 There is definitely an ideology of utopia at work here.\xA0 As David Harvey notes, \x93The figures of \x91the city\x92 and of \x91Utopia\x92 have long been intertwined.\x94\xA0 \x93If heaven is a \x91happy place\x92 then that \x91other\x92 place, hell, the place of \x91the evil other,\x92 cannot be far away.\xA0 The figure of the city as a fulcrum of social disorder, moral breakdown, and unmitigated evil\x96from Babylon and Sodom and Gomorrah to Gotham\x96also has its place in the freight of metaphorical meanings that the word \x91city\x92 carries across our cultural universe.\x94 (Harvey, 2000:156-57).\xA0 Add the New Jerusalem, the reformed city par excellence, to the list and the utopian urban dream is fulfilled.


Thus is it right to say that the creation of \x93the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God\x94 (21:10) is a fitting ending, a respectable goal for Christian faith?\xA0 Isn\x92t this a justified fantasy for believers that God will produce a better, more perfect space?\xA0 God\x92s defeat of the oppressive earthly powers is cause for celebration.\xA0 But is this heavenly space really a new invention?\xA0 Or is it a revamping of a hodgepodge of architectural styles imaged on a fantastic scale: the ultimate in ancient city walls and gates, a merging of the throne room, streets (of gold) better designed than even those the Romans built, and a scaled down, redesigned garden of Paradise\x96one tree with twelve kinds of fruit (but no fruit dangerous to deities) and a river of the water of life.\xA0\xA0 Lefebvre holds that, \x93A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; indeed it has failed in that it has not changed life itself, but has merely changed ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses\x94 (2001:54).\xA0 God\x92s ultimate revolution has not produced a totally new space in the New Jerusalem.\xA0 The political center of Jews and Christians is refurbished and reconstructed as heavenly space.\xA0 The Paradise of Eden is resurrected and reconfigured in this ordered city.\xA0 The \x93ideological superstructure\x94 has changed hands\x96from the Beast and his minions to God and his angels.\xA0 There is no real change in political structure, only the leadership shifts from the Beast to God, and if given the choice, the slaves of the kingdom would fare better in the new city than in the burning lake. \xA0Still, this city is not bound by time or by the architecture of the late first century.\xA0 The New Jerusalem is a dream space, an imagined space, a vision of the ideal ancient city, and a precursor of the medieval city.\xA0 As this city-space is produced, then what is produced by the city as sign?\xA0 Or asked another way, what does this City represent?\xA0 Eternal happiness?\xA0 A microcosm of the Cosmos?\xA0 God\x92s ultimate will, after years of failed attemps finally brought to its pure completion?\xA0

Science journalist Margaret Wertheim compares the New Jerusalem, as \x93an idealized polis\x94 in the ancient world, to cyberspace in the modern world (1999:18).\xA0 Her thesis is that cyberspace uses religious language to relate its vision and that cyberspace technicians see it as sacred space.\xA0 Theoretically, the heavenly city is open to anyone who believes properly, and cyberspace is open to anyone who has Internet access.\xA0 The eternity of cyberspace, if indeed it is ever possible to download one\x92s self (soul and body) into it, does not have the religious obligations or the guilt of Christianity (1999:281).\xA0 But both \x93places\x94 promise a glorified, transcendent, incorruptible, eternal body (1999:258ff.).\xA0 Only the truly wise (and well-connected) will make the choice for (otherworldly or online) immortality.\xA0


Wertheim notes that the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse has a \x93highly structured geometry.\x94\xA0 She states, \x93In this sense the Heavenly City suggests a glittering numerological puzzle, which in contrast to the wilderness of Eden is rigor and order incarnate.\x94\xA0 She quotes Michael Benedickt from his book, Cyberspace: First Steps, as regarding the New Jerusalem as \x93laid out in a beautiful equation\x94 of numbers and \x93a religious vision of cyberspace\x94 (Wertheim: 1999:258).\xA0 William Gibson\x92s description of the matrix of cyberspace in his cybernovel Neuromancer also describes a geometric city (1999:258).\xA0 So enters Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician for whom \x93all is number.\x94\xA0 Pythagoras upheld the already entrenched Greek dualist thought of male/female, culture/nature, form/matter, light/dark, and so forth in which the former was a higher form.\xA0 Women were secondary, represented by the number 2 (Wertheim, 1997:29).\xA0 Only by striving for culture, form, matter, etc. could men experience a mystical union with the divine.\xA0 \x93For Pythagoras the source of divinity, the fountainhead of the All, was the supreme godhead of the number One, which he associated with the sun god Apollo\x94 (Wertheim, 1999:276).\xA0 Thus only through an understanding of numbers could one come to know God.\xA0 And the form of God\x92s heavenly realm is of ultimate importance.\xA0


In a twisted Pythagorean way some Christian fundamentalists spend a lot of mental and emotional energy on an imagined numerical code attached to each biblical letter.\xA0 The bible code, which is the basis for several recent end-time films (e.g. The Omega Code and Megiddo), is a way toward a \x93Grand Unified Theory\x94 (GUT) or \x93Theory of Everything\x94 (TOE).\xA0 Through deciphering this numerical code the believer has access to the ultimate mystery, and thus, the subtext of the biblical texts.\xA0 This secret text that is just below the surface of the words amazingly reveals mostly apocalyptic prophecy.\xA0 Rather than the particle accelerators of quantum physics, these biblical interpreters only need the bible\x92s numeric code to know what God knows.\xA0 Rather than finding the meaning of pi or the combination of quantum physics with the theory of relativity, what in physicist Stephen Hawking\x92s term is, \x93the mind of God,\x94 these biblicists need only god\x92s word.\xA0 Or more accurately, god\x92s number.\xA0 \x93In the beginning was the Number, and the Number was with God,\x94 etc.\xA0 In this numbers racket everything comes together in a grand unified theory of apocalypse--the number one deity and worship of the One.\xA0

What this vision has in common with cyber-utopias is that both are grounded in mathematical space.\xA0 To be at one with God requires the purest form of a mathematical equation.\xA0 The only difference is that physicists deal in the realms of higher mathematics, while these bible code experts use a form that most literate believers can understand.\xA0 In one instance god\x92s numbers require a high priesthood of mathematical physicists and highly technological machinery to figure out; in the latter a pencil and paper will suffice.\xA0 The apocalyptic film of Tribulation times, The Omega Code, merges these two ideas; the Antichrist and the Devil have to set up a computer laboratory in their attempt to figure out what the end of the apocalyptic message in the bible holds, since the last page was destroyed by a scribe before the Devil could confiscate it.\xA0 When this film was first in theaters, a class of mine went as a field trip, and during the scene in which the Antichrist grew desperate to know the ending of the manuscript as he stood over a bank of computers, one of my students yelled out, \x93Just look in the side table draw in any hotel bedroom!\xA0 It\x92s on the last page!\x94\xA0

Wertheim uses the term cyber-selfishness (from Paulina Borsook) to expose the moral vacuum of the cyber vision of immortality: \x93What is left out here is the element of community and one\x92s obligations to the wider social whole\x94 (1999:281-82).\xA0 I think that the eschatological desire for the heavenly city of perfect form and matter in the Apocalypse also reveals a lack of ethical concern for the present injustices. Why be concerned with the structures of oppression if the final battle is near and desired?\xA0 Down with Babylon; up with/to the New Jerusalem.\xA0 Out with this corrupt world and in with the new.\xA0


Is there a way out of this dialectic, this Cartesian space/time dualism?\xA0 Is the Apocalypse caught in its own trap, and are those who read too closely trapped as well?\xA0 Jim Flanagan observes, \x93The historicity of exodus, exile, apocalyptic, and similar traditions in any religion are notoriously difficult to evaluate.\xA0 Understandings of postmodern space suggest that the reason may be that the traditions are voicing unfulfilled but longed-for expectations\x94 (2000:244).\xA0 I think several space theorists offer ways of understanding of a difficult concept in apocalyptic literature.\xA0\xA0 Wertheim\x92s comparisons to the history of science and cyberspace, Lefebvre\x92s trialectic (spatial practice, representations of space, and representational spaces), Foucault\x92s idea of heterotopia (alternate spaces that offer new possibilities outside the dominant controlled spaces), Edward Soja\x92s concept of thirdspace, which he describes as a \x93strategic reopening and rethinking new possibilities\x94 (1996:81), along with David Harvey\x92s interest in \x93spaces of hope,\x94 Bataille\x92s conception of reading space tragically in terms of violence and destruction, and Mike Davis\x92 reading of Los Angeles as a space of disasters all provide me ways of reading for apocalyptic spaces.\xA0 But there is something more happening in terms of gender, of these spaces as gendered.\xA0 Just when these spaces were appearing hopelessly controlling and totalitarian and also questionable in terms of an ethic of/for a just future, I want to raise further concerns.\xA0 The city of the New Jerusalem is formed from the body of the Bride of Christ.\xA0

After the wedding feast in Apoc 19:6-10, the demon beasts and powers are defeated and God\x92s holy city appears.\xA0 \x93Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb.\xA0 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.\xA0 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal\x94 (Apoc 21:9-10).\xA0 The Bride of the Lamb sacrifices her body to create the heavenly city.\xA0 Thus the female does indeed dwell in heaven\x96as the Bride become city: reconfigured, inhabited, colonized, controlled.\xA0 Lefebvre considers the ancient Greek system of the subordination of the female principle: \x93The Greeks reduced the woman\x92s station to that of the fertility of field owned and worked by her husband.\xA0 The female realm was in the household: around the shrine or hearth; around the omphalos, a circular, closed and fixed space; or around the oven\x96last relic of the shadowy abyss\x94 (2001:248).\xA0 In the Apocalypse the Bride\x92s station is to become the shrine, the jewels, and the very walls that enclose her.\xA0 The Bride\x92s body gives way, gives itself to the City, to becoming the City.\xA0 The virginal Bride as City is penetrated and the Bride\x92s body dismantled, like Tiamat\x92s? but without all the gory details.\xA0 The Bride-City is transparent, her body totally exposed and revealed.\xA0


Elizabeth Grosz offers a psychological investigation (by way of a feminist reading of Lacan) of bodies and cities.\xA0 She holds that \x93The city is a reflection, projection, or product of bodies\x94 (1995:105) and wants to show \x93how the body is psychically, socially, sexually, and representationally produced\x94 (1995:104).\xA0 Of course she is talking about human cities and the real, flesh and blood bodies that inhabit them.\xA0 Grosz finds an interface between bodies and cities, but she is describing these linkages on the temporal level and not on the eternal plane (1995:108).\xA0 The city becomes the \x93form\x94 of heaven; the female is \x93matter\x94 used in the formation of the city.\xA0 The duality here is firmly in place.\xA0 What would a more detailed version of the building of the New Jerusalem look like?\xA0 Out of the limbs of the Bride God built the walls?\xA0 Would the foundational jewels be her heart, and eyes, and intestinal parts?\xA0 Would the tree of life be constructed from her brain matter?\xA0 Would the throne be molded from her uterus?\xA0 When the saved walk the street of gold, what body part is this?\xA0 Again, is there a way out of this dualistic imagining, thinking, envisioning of the future and of space and the body/ies in it?\xA0


Grosz wants to reimagine female bodies in such patriarchal configurations.\xA0 She states, \x93To transform the castrated, lacking, inadequate representation of female corporeality, not only do the relations between the sexes and the dominance of masculine in the formulation of universal models need to be questioned, the overarching context of space-time, within which bodies function and are conceived also needs serious revision\x94 (1995:100).\xA0 So here I am (once more) questioning the dominant Christian apocalyptic vision.\xA0 For Grosz \x93Bodies speak, without necessarily talking, because they become coded with and as signs.\xA0 They speak social codes.\xA0 They become intextuated, narrativized; simultaneously, social codes, laws, norms, and ideals become incarnated\x94 (1995:35).\xA0 The New Jerusalem reminds me of Foucault\x92s discussion of the clinic or prison where bodies are shaped and poked and dressed intruded upon as a form of control (see Grosz, 1995:35).\xA0 I now wonder how to read the white robed bodies in heaven; these bodies are coded \x93with and as signs\x94 of some great Panoptican come down from the sky.\xA0

Situating the City: The Architecture of Fear and Spectacle

[Please note: this is the section where I intend to introduce the Situationist International movement and theory, especially the architectural theory of Constant\x97his New Babylon notion--and the relation and response of Lefebre to this group]

\x93A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at\x94 (Oscar Wilde in Harvey, 2000, 133).

The front page of the September 29, 2003 edition of The New York Times had a large picture of the \x93wall\x94 that Israelis are building to separate Israel from the West Bank.\xA0 The NYT uses the term \x93barrier\x94 for the officially named \x93separation fence,\x94 but the divider has also been called a \x93wall,\x94 since it looks like a bit like and has been compared to the Berlin Wall.\xA0 The plans for the wall are to follow the pre-1967 West Bank border, the \x93Green Line,\x94 in some places making visible a previously invisible border.\xA0 The result has so far been to create several \x93seam zones\x94 in which Palestinian farms and some villages have been trapped, by living too close between Israel and the barrier wall to be considered at a safe, secure distance.\xA0 Supporters of the \x93fence\x94 sight security needs; opponents claim land appropriation and further displacements of Palestinians.

This photo shows an Israeli woman walking her dog by the barrier wall.\xA0 The caption reads, \x93Artists painted the barrier to make it blend in with the landscape.\x94 Here is a case of landscape as simulacra, a copy of the real.\xA0 The Palestinian town on the other side of the idyllic, rocky landscape is erased, replaced by a space of safety and control all the way out to its (implied) endless land.\xA0 Is that an ancient or modern village on the hillside?\xA0 In any event, the implications for the viewers are that the woman could walk right out of her contested Jerusalem suburb and into that peaceful landscape.\xA0 This walled landscape \x93blends in\x94 with a certain ideology of space and belief in ownership in the land beyond the wall.\xA0 The land beyond becomes reclaimed in this artificial rendering as a borderless territory.\xA0 The only interruption is the steel girders sticking through the top; they jab at the sky and at any peace plans or plans for a dual Israeli and Palestinian state.\xA0 What holds this landscape in place is concrete and steel, political and economic interests, the 1948 creation of the State of Israel, fear, violence, and political interests.\xA0 I stare into this landscape-on-top-of-a-landscape; this fantasyland of peace and nation building meant to imply a certain seamlessness, a continuous space.\xA0 I try to imagine that this palimpsest landscape is the real one; in some ways it is, since those in power have \x93drawn\x94 these many lines in the sand.\xA0 Part of the ancient wall around Jerusalem has been rebuilt to keep the enemy (read, Palestinian terrorists) out.\xA0 But there\x92s a disruption; the unseen other side of the fence remains a possibility, the conflict with which to reckon.

The picture has the title, \x93An Uneasy Divide.\x94\xA0 The photo introduced a story that revealed other walls in Jerusalem, the Western Wall Plaza and an outer wall of the Al Aksa mosque.\xA0 Walls lead to more walls, outer to inner, inner to outer and further out still.\xA0 Walls and fences currently divide the land, barriers to maintain the tension, choose sides, keep the divisions in check, barring all from peace.\xA0 The big barrier wall is made of concrete, the same material as the Berlin Wall.\xA0 I remember in 1990 chipping away at that wall in Berlin and picking pieces off the ground, and crossing the \x93sides\x94 in a new way\x97by simply stepping over the ground.\xA0 No more checkpoints, armed guards, or waiting to pass through from one side to the other.\xA0 But in this photo, and its accompanying landscape, there are all the invisible artifacts of memory and knowledge about this land; sensors, ditches, barbed wire, armed military presence, conflicting claims for the land.\xA0 This is the edge of Jerusalem, the edge of the Holy Apocalyptic City, claimed by many.\xA0\xA0 Even though this photo shows the seam, the border, the city wall (seemingly without gate/s here) extends beyond itself, entrapping olive trees and villages on the other side as it claims more \x93nation\x94 for itself.\xA0 Power and control expand outward; the edges begin to represent the city center, and the center the edges, an ever expanding universe.\xA0 What does the future hold?\xA0 Eventually the New Jerusalem, the City of God, filling every nation, erasing every boundary, every space, becoming Space itself, the ever-expanding universe finally settling in for eternity.

Some Concluding Remarks

The spectacle (a term from Guy Debord) of the end time can be entered into through countless fictionalized accounts.\xA0 But the spaces created by these fictions are never innocent but are highly politically charged narratives, and I read these spaces through some of the cultural representations of the end of the world.\xA0 One example of creative imagining of apocalyptic spaces comes from the British artist John Martin.\xA0 In a trilogy of end time narratives, Martin relates \x93The Great Day of His Wrath\x94 (1851-3), \x93The Last Judgment\x94 (1853), and \x93The Plains of Heaven\x94 (1851-30).\xA0 When I first encountered Martin\x92s apocalyptic visions at the Tate Gallery a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by the enormous size of the canvases, and my small relationship to them.\xA0 I was also awed by the amount of empty space; this space seems in some way given to me by the artist to fill in with my own architecture and bodies.\xA0 In some ways in this paper, I have been creating my own tour of \x93heaven\x94 and \x93hell,\x94 continually raising along the way the ethical implications of these imagined spaces.


The spaces in the Apocalypse are both earthly and heavenly as the narrative rushes toward a more holy landscape.\xA0 Evangelical writer Randall Price, in his book Jerusalem in Prophecy, focuses on the questions, \x93What will life be like in the New Jerusalem?\x94\xA0 \x93What wonders await us in the New Jerusalem?\x94\xA0 Mitchell (2000:194) shakes me loose from such fantasies: \x93The perverse logic of holy landscape seems to turn it from god\x92s gift into an obscene idol that demands human sacrifice.\xA0 The sacred groves are watered by blood, and the fields are fertilized with human flesh and bones.\x94\xA0 \x93...it seems obvious that landscape is quite capable of becoming an idol in its own right\x96that is, a potent, ideological representation that serves to naturalize power relations and erase history and legibility.\x94\xA0 \x93...but in the very terms by which idolatry is defined in the Bible\x96a false god that displaces the true one with a material image, and leads inexorably to the violation of every commandment, not just the prohibition on idolatry.\x94\xA0 Eternity in the Holy City is the inheritance of Christian believers.\xA0 So in keeping God\x92s apocalyptic \x93commandments, are believers committing idolatry?\xA0 Is the Apocalypse an idolatrous text?\xA0 There are too many sacrifices offered up to a vengeful God in this text.\xA0 And from the mythic virginal, bridal body is carved the Holy City.\xA0 See, \x93the angel who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues\x94 (21:9) announced this great creation.\xA0 Is this City yet the grandest plague of all?

 

 

 


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