Review of Edge of Abyss: The Usefulness of Antichrist Terminology in the Era of Donald Trump
Reprinted from the C.G. Jung Society of Montreal Newsletter
Review written by Marsha Mundy
Edge of the Abyss: The Usefulness of Antichrist Terminology in the Era of Donald Trump
Robert Isaac Skidmore. M.Div., PhD., is an Orthodox priest, a scholar of theology and depth psychology, and a licensed counsellor in Ashland, Oregon. He studied theology at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is now auxiliary priest at Archangel Gabriel Orthodox church and an adjunct professor in the clinical and mental health counselling program at Southern Oregon University. While studying Jung, Skidmore became interested in the subject of shadow and the concept of archetypical shadow; in his 2017 dissertation, he applied Jung’s theory of shadow to Christianity and Western culture.
Skidmore writes a simple book, but one of in-depth spiritual meaning. He argues that the archetypal antichrist can be seen today in aspects of each of our personalities rather than only in one individual. He reminds us that because it is unconscious to us, it displays itself as an aspect of our own psychological, sociological, and political experiences that can become risky or even dangerous when overlooked or pushed aside.
Skidmore looks at the Sumerian myth of the descent of Inanna, a myth that has been both historically and archetypally repressed, to develop his understanding of the archetype of the antichrist. Inanna was a goddess in Sumerian mythology, and was known also as Ishtar in the Akkadian pantheon. She is regarded as one of the most important and complex deities of the Mesopotamian pantheon, and is known primarily as a goddess of sexual love but also as a goddess of war.
From this myth, Skidmore shares that we, too, can experience the reality of Inanna. At times, she is portrayed as a young girl under patriarchal authority, though at others she is depicted as an ambitious figure who seeks to expand her own sphere of influence.
This book is timely as we have entered a time of many troubling questions as we look at the era of the recent U.S. president—Donald Trump. Skidmore sees Donald Trump’s present activity and influence as expressing an archetypal pattern, that is not only bringing about ancient conscious awareness, but that is also calling us to self-scrutiny and truth. He recognizes that the Antichrist has gained a negative reputation historically, particularly through the occasional extreme activities of few fundamental churches and groups, but suggests that today our consciousness is being tweaked through the presence of this archetype, as we realize both the potential hazards, but also the important benefits of this archetype. He sees the presence of the Antichrist as relevant today to wake up our unconscious mind to what is going on in the madness and chaos around us, to work with our own shadows to find truth.
Skidmore invites us to take a different view to examine the Antichrist. The biblical story of the Antichrist refers to one individual who appears at the end of days executing Satan’s last surge of activity on earth. Christ and His heavenly army appear to confront the Antichrist, and the battle of Armageddon, (a final divine judgment in which God casts Satan, the Antichrist, and those under the Antichrist into the fiery abyss) ensues.
But Skidmore takes an interesting look at the Antichrist as an archetype, and suggests that “the spirit of antichrist resides in more than a single individual.” (p. 20) It is with this information that Skidmore sees that the antichrist “falls radically outside the range of our normal expectations with the understanding of the antichrist as an expression of an archetypal shadow.”(p. 45) He adds that because we do not accept our shadows, we do not see the antichrist characteristics within ourselves.
He quotes Revelation 14:5 where the words “first beast” appear to describe the antichrist, and interprets this as there being more than one beast or Antichrist. Thus, he suggests that the beast is more of an archetype than only one being. He notes the annoyance that Trump has brought as he exhibits extraordinary skills in business management, but also has serious deficits in behaviour. Skidmore also notes the chaos and disruption in the world and suggests these all imply the presence of the Antichrist. This view may interest religious scholars today because this theme can also be found in the Bible in the words of St. John the Evangelist: “Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father, and the Son, this is the antichrist.”1 John 2:22
Skidmore reminds us that the concept of antichrist functions on the boundary between truth and error, and how it particularly “functions to warn us that some things on the side of error, convincingly retain characteristics we associate with truth—so much so that, without deliberate effort, our normal instincts concerning truth can be confounded.” (p. 24) He further reminds us that “error, in the form of antichrist, does not reveal itself except to those who are on guard, not just for error, but for trickery, for cunning and sophisticated camouflage.“ (p. 24) He notes that extreme situations exist in which signs can be deliberately and maliciously manipulated. He concludes that the concept of antichrist as an archetype, calls for “utmost vigilance of heart and spirit,“ (p. 25) and leaves us with the task of awakening to our own comportment as we journey through life, to become aware of our inner lives.
Skidmore handles a deep subject with skill and ease, and has linked Jungian understanding to a concept of antichrist that is not only helpful, but also informing and transforming. This is a short book, but one that
should be read twice.
As in Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead so in Antichrist the fullness of all wickedness. Not indeed in the sense that his humanity is to be assumed by the devil into unity of person…but that the devil by suggestion infuses his wickedness more copiously into him than into all others. In this way all the wicked that have gone
before are signs of Antichrist. —Thomas Aquinas