THE EMPIRE NEVER ENDED, Philip K. Dick wrote. The Empire being the Roman Empire, and also being what he called the Black Iron Prison, which encompassed all the world. Which you could not fight, because “to fight the Empire was to become part of the Empire”. It had continued on, in his reckoning, at least in spiritual form. He saw traces of it all around him when he walked the streets of 20th century California, a psychological construct meant to enslave all and everything, superimposed upon the material world at large, which nobody ever sensed was there: because it had been so all-pervasive, as ignored as the air we breathe. But perhaps it is also an even stranger thing.
If the Empire never ended, had it ever begun? One interesting intersection is that the Roman Empire is referred to in scripture, at times, as BABYLON. The big deal about Babylon, of course, was that way back in 586 BC, the Babylonians destroyed the temple of YHVH, and basically kidnapped everyone in Jerusalem. This had been so traumatic an experience that when you did refer to Rome as Babylon, every Jew would nod their head and agree, yep, I know exactly what you’re talking about. But does the Empire go back even farther than this? How about Egypt, which had supposedly enslaved the whole of Israel for 400 years? But upon that topic what is remembered instead was their Exodus, and the Passover, and that of which eventually led to their inhabiting the Promised Land.
But what if the Empire was not what Phil believed it to be? Not in its spirit, but its representation. The Empire was Rome, and Rome was Babylon, and maybe… something else? Babylon fell, as we all should know. And then did Rome, too, fall. You could even progress it further into the future from that: might you say that the Empire was also the Third Reich? Of which we know they took a few cues from the Roman Empire, when convenient. Indeed, this would further strengthen the argument: THE EMPIRE NEVER ENDED. Though Babylon fell, it continued; though Rome fell, it continued; though Nazi Germany fell, it continued. The idea: it is still around. And there is no way to fight it. The Empire saw your birth, and it will remain after you are long gone. Unless…
What if you could fight the Empire? That the first qualification to be able to do so was to read between the lines, to work it out for oneself: you would become a part of the Empire if you fought against it violently: Phil wrote that you couldn’t fight it because theirs was a way of violence. But what if one wages, not war, but peace? Because one of Jesus’ titles, and perhaps his best, is Prince of Peace. Phil had an idea that the big JC was going to come back sometime soon, like many, many apocalyptic prophets of the New Testament. See, you fight the Empire like Our Master fought it: take up thy cross and follow in his Way. In this wise the authorities might actually have proclaimed him King of the Jews—quite literally, and of their own free will. And now—you have cause to rejoice in this, the new news, that not only have we fought against the Empire, but we have defeated it.
So, right, the Empire indeed has no beginning. Reading the above might have given you a clue to that idea. Moreover, that that statement can be read in two ways, one of which (if we had not won), would have meant that the Empire would have become an eternal construct. But as Phil wrote at the end of VALIS, in the “Tractates: Cryptica Scriptura”, he saw that the Empire was defeated—though not here on Earth. The vision he had of this in 1974 was reflected in the resignation of Richard Nixon, who was of that Empire. In eternity, then, it had been accomplished, but here, it continued, and THE EMPIRE NEVER ENDED. But now, there is something new that is emergent in the world. As you are reading this, you can be told the truth of that which is Eternity, which too is the true name of Now: THE EMPIRE NEVER WAS….
Shadows without a source. We find that these were all that could be said of what anyone truly knew of the Empire. Philip K. talked about some visions he had had, and which some others had also glimpsed, the ephemeral shifting shades of another world or worlds. So much worse than the one currently around us, which the forces on high prevented from happening. That there were competing realities, and thank God this one was the one that won out. And the Empire was of that ilk. Myself, I had a different vision of it… Whereas he saw the darkness superimposed on the waking world, I entered headlong completely contained within the Nightmare. Yes, drugs were involved, but truly—I was no longer on Earth. Not just any “trip”. What I was not allowed to think while there (this I felt in my bones, that I could not even rouse the word, if even I knew where it was I had to have been): I was in Hell.
Think, what do we know about Hell? Something not that many people are aware of was that Christianity in its first few hundred years had no such thing as eternal damnation. The whole of the church were Universalist, which meant that at some point, even the Devil himself was saved. Christ’s sacrifice for all literally meant all. It was in the hands of (so-called) Saint Augustine that the idea of an eternal Hell gained in popularity. But when you start piecing things together, experiencing what I have experienced, you come across the realization that if there had been an actual Hell, that would have meant that the ’Prison had become eternal, and what would be of this consequence? That we had lost the War in Heaven. The true existence of Hell, as advertised, would have meant that THE EMPIRE NEVER ENDED. Forever. Into the future, into the past, inescapable. Destroying worlds.
But just tilt the thinking, just a bit. What would it mean if we had won? Phil had thought that there were epic shiftings of multiple realities. But what I have discovered is that God and Nature basically work by the Principle of Parsimony. Evidence is the fact that all physical things go toward their lowest energy state. This means that one quantum mechanical idea, that at each decision point, all reality splits into two realities, both just as real, except that there’s the one difference between them? No. That would be an incredible waste, truly. No. There is ONLY ONE reality. Deal with it. Reality is more precious than you can imagine, the meanest parts of it. Too, there is reality, and there is illusion. Illusion has no substance, but rather, has the minimum amount of material integrity to be perceived at all, and in fact is not really anything more than the perception of it. And it turns out, the Black Iron Prison never existed. Shadows without a source. No beginning to go along with no ending. Because… THE EMPIRE NEVER WAS.
Here’s a thought experiment: consider the cosmology of the Zoroastrians. They believe that there are two gods who contend with each other, Ahura Mazda (“Lord of Wisdom”) and Angra Mainyu (“Destructive Spirit”), equal in power and scope. Which is nowhere like the Christian sense that there is an all-powerful good God and really, Satan is not God’s opposite. Satan is finite. The Zoroastrians are where many of the common ideas of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness gets its inspiration from, even if theirs specifically does not fit into the Judeo-Christian ideation. But what if? What if in the eternal struggle between Ahura Mazda (Light) and Angra Mainyu (Darkness), that Light had won? In Eternity? Would it not then be as if the living Darkness… would it look to have never existed at all? Would all that remained of the Evil be as scraps of its original material, that actually held nothing of genuine Darkness, only just a figment of what might have been? Like what exists now? For as we know, darkness does not exist, except as that which is lacking light.
Like, as if the Black Iron Prison, as if Hell itself, never had existed. Like as if there was nothing more to the visions of Hell than just its idea. Letting this story, or set of stories, mix a bit as we stir the cauldron, may I impress upon you that that notion above must ultimately remain a thought experiment. A conspiracy theory. As it happened, we did win the War in Heaven, the good guys. Like Phil. The idea of Hell (and everybody has one) was never allowed to be material, ever. I believe that this was one reason I was not even permitted to think the word “Hell” when I was “there”. The Empire that Never Ended… well, in fact it had never begun. Because it never was. The Empire Never Was. This is the escape from its psychology, which all its constructs ever were: illusion. That simple. You are free because you always have been free. To achieve enlightenment is to realize you are already there. Saints before me have glimpsed the place reserved for them in Hell. But ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we always find that the soul cannot be kept in irons.