The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher

By Martin Gardner | Go to book overview

23
666 and All That

Here is the wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.

Revelation 13:18

No verse of biblical prophecy has been subjected to more bizarre and futile speculation than this verse from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. Most fundamentalists believe that the passage refers to the Antichrist (described more explicitly in the epistles of John), who it is said will acquire a vast following just before the Second Coming of Christ. The beast in this biblical scenario will be Satan's earthly agent. Before the Battle of Armageddon, the great conflict between the forces of good and evil, the faithful will be "raptured," lifted into the skies. There will be mass conversions of Jews to Christianity (the unconverted, according to this apocalyptic account, are destined for eternal damnation). Ultimately, Satan will be banished and held chained in an abyss, and a millennium of peace will begin on earth.

As Revelation (13:16-17) foretells, the Antichrist "causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." The number will be 666.

Many biblical scholars have attempted to unravel the mysterious number. Most think it is a cipher that stands for a name. This kind of mathematical game-playing was popular among the Greeks and Hebrews, who used letters of the alphabet as numbers at the time Revelation was written in the first century A.D. The likeliest name is that of the tyrannical emperor Nero (37-68). As the name is transliterated from Greek, Neron Caesar is represented in Hebrew as Nron Ksr, whose letters have these

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This article originally appeared in Discover, February 1985, and is reprinted with permission.

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The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Part 1 11
  • 1 - Project Alpha 13
  • 2 - Margaret Mead 19
  • 3 - Magicians in the PSI Lab 25
  • 4 - Shirley MacLaine 32
  • 5 - Freud, Fliess, and Emma's Nose 38
  • 6 - Koestler Money Down the Psi Drain? 44
  • 7 - Targ: From Puthoff to Blue 50
  • 8 - The Relevance of Belief Systems 57
  • 9 - Welcome to the Debunking Club 65
  • 10 - The Great Stone Face 72
  • 11 - From Phillips to Morris 79
  • 12 - George McCready Price 93
  • 13 - Wonders of Science 99
  • 14 - Tommy Gold 103
  • 15 - Rupert Sheldrake 109
  • 16 - The Anomalies of Chip Arp 115
  • 17 - Thoughts on Superstrings 119
  • 18 - The Third Eye 123
  • 19 - Irving Kristol and the Facts of Life 129
  • Part 2 135
  • 20 - The Great SRI Die Mystery 137
  • 21 - Perpetual Motion 145
  • 22 - Psychic Surgery 167
  • 23 - 666 and All That 170
  • 24 - D. D. Home-Sweet-Home 175
  • 25 - PK (Psycho-Krap) 179
  • 26 - Chicanery in Science 182
  • 27 - Fools' Paradigms 184
  • 28 - Look, Shirl, No Hands! 188
  • 29 - The Channeling Mania 202
  • 30 - Who Was Ray Palmer? 209
  • 31 - Prime-Time Preachers 223
  • 32 - L. Ron Hubbard 246
  • 33 - Psychic Astronomy 252
  • Name Index 265
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