Keith Newman, a freelance information technology journalist who admits to being a one-time conspiracy watcher thought it was time the persistent ‘mark of the beast’ myth got a facelift.
(updated October 2006)

"Modern man is far from slaying the beast within; why assume that the man of the future will be a completely new creature? what if the new man combines the animal irrationality of primitive man with the calculated greed and power lust of industrial man, while possessing the virtual God-like powers granted him by technology? This would be the ultimate horror,"-
Victor Ferkiss.

Beastly rumours persist
"And he causes small and great, rich and poor, free and bond
to receive a mark in their right hand or forehead
so no-one can buy and sell
unless they have this mark or the name of the beast,
or the number of his name…his number is 666,"
- Revelation 13:18

By Keith Newman

Every other year some doomsayer trots out a new theory about a conspiracy to control the world through a computer-based Big Brother system, which brands us all with a mark as if we were so many cattle.

We are warned in Revelation 18, verse 13 of a time where ‘the beast’ – imagined as a beguiling antichrist figure - forces everyone to receive "a mark in their right hand, or forehead" for all buying and selling as part of a new despotic world order.

Apocalyptic end-time stories found new favour with each world war and with every major uprising since - indeed this has been the violent millennium with plenty of signs of ‘wars and rumours of wars’ through to the restoration of Israel and ‘knowledge increasing’.

The mark, or ‘number of the beast’ ( ), familiar to every heavy metal fan as 666, the Devil’s number. In the Omen series of movies for example the lead character Damien, born to fulfil the antichrist prophecies, was depicted with the dreaded digits on his head as a birthmark.

East London band Iron Maiden's 1982 album and single Number of the Beast  loosely inspired by the Omen movies and a dream the bass player had after a run in with a cult, cemented the dreaded number even further into modern popular culture . The single was re-released as a single in the UK in January 2005 where it quickly soaring to number three spot.

The spoken introduction to the Number of the Beast, done by a Vincent Price sound-alike quotes from Revelation 13:18 where the warning is given that no man will be able to buy or sell without having 666, the number of the beast, a mark on their right hand or forehead

On one web site where fans discuss the songs it is claimed spooky things went on during and after the recording by iron Maiden including their manager being in a car crash with a buys full of nuns and the repair costs coming to 666 pounds. Ironically the remake of the film The Omen, featuring the character Damien modelled on the anti-Christ theme with the strange 666 was released on June 6, 2006 (incidentally the author’s birthday) for promotional effect.

Imaginations have been further flamed by the exponential growth in computer technology and communications, which have given rise to a whole new set of possible interpretations of the prophecy.

For modern day beast watchers the arrival of bar codes and plastic cards were the first signs of what is to come. In the 70s and 80s numerous books written about ‘the mark' had congregations around the world mesmerised. Among the ‘evidence’ were bold statements in an article on the United Press International wires in 1974. Dr Heindrick Eldeman, chief analyst with the EC allegedly revealed a plan to computerise all world trade with a digital numbering system for each human to be used for all buying and selling. The system would begin with credit cards. Dr Eldeman’s comments were made at the unveiling of a new mainframe computer system, which took up three floors of the star shaped EC headquarters in Brussels.

Many authors were convinced the ultimate cashless surveillance society was at hand and the computer would eventually be able to track everyone through an implantable chip or laser tattooed code. New Zealand’s travelling evangelist Barry Smith and Australian Don Stanton were among those who put all the newspaper clippings together and toured throughout Asia Pacific warning of the ‘new world order’ and the coming mark.

Former NZ Herald reporter Jeff Fountain, now Youth With a Mission (YWAM) European regional director, visited the star shaped European Commission building in Berlaymont in 1991 and asked about the computer center, which had been fondly nicknamed 'the beast'.

Mr Fountain, accompanied by his European leadership team, met with an official to inquire about the EC (now the EU) in general. "We were ushered into a basement meeting room and joked about being able to hear the hum of the feared machine. Our Irish host arrived, shook our hands and said, 'Gentlemen, shall we begin with prayer'. Our jaws dropped. Not quite what we had expected from this bastion of secularism".

The official told the group he was leader of a prayer network of European Commission staff. When reference was made to the omniscient 'beast', he laughed saying "if only people knew how inefficient we are with our computers".

Today the average desktop PC has more power than the European computer center and bar codes are harmless every day product tracking devices. The EC building is currently draped in shrouds and undergoing major renovation to remove asbestos in the ceilings.

The myth of the beast dies hard. Some interpretations down the centuries, claim the prophecy of the beast was fulfilled within years of Christ's death through the rise of successive despotic Roman emperors who murdered millions of Christian and Jewish believers because they wouldn’t bow down to them or their pagan images. Today such views are outweighed by Christians who believe the events of Revelation are yet to be fully and finally fulfilled in ‘the end-times’. Many believe these are those times.

There is no known science for tracking prophecy other than time. Indeed many have been fulfilled to the letter but many more have simply left embarrassed believers in their wake. If it's shocking enough, any variation on the beast theory will find a welcome home on the internet, the biggest gossip, dis-information and propaganda network of all time. Many of the wild theories imagine technology's reach and the public's gullibility are limitless.

One of the cowboys riding to infamy on the new wave of fear mongering is Texe Marrs ( ). He has written a string of books including Mark of the New Age, Days of Hunger, Days of Chaos and Project Lucid. He names Motorola, smart card manufacturer Gem Plus, telecommunications giant Lucent, the United Nations and a secret huddle of power brokers, as co-conspirators in a plan to introduce a Universal Biometrics Card.

He claims the internet is being used to 'cast a spidery spell over humanity, inter-linking all intelligence and police apparatus on a global scale'. He quotes an article allegedly found in US police publication The Narc Officer (Sept-Oct 1995) which discloses an intention to integrate satellites, remote data collection devices and every computer bank on the planet to create a universal identification system.

He claims the UN-led initiative will be enabled through the introduction of card containing digitised templates of the holders DNA genotype, handprint and iris scan. Detailed dossiers are to be maintained on everyone - every new baby will be issued with a card. Marrs claims it will be issued from the same offices which issue driver’s licenses in the US.

Apparently ‘Project Lucid’ opens the way for global law enforcement through the card to track our every move, transaction and acquaintance as part of a single global government, religion and electronic economy. Everything Marrs writes is sweeping and sensational with few supporting facts. If you go looking on the internet, or within any traditional source, to corroborate Marrs' sensational theories or references to Project Lucid and its so-called Luciferian aims, there don’t appear to be any. However his words have been picked up and replicated across the web hundreds of times.

Another extravagant claim doing the rounds quotes Marrs rantings and adds further revelation. Apparently Dr Carl Sanders was asked to develop a microchip that could be embedded safely into humans for economic and identification purposes. The chip is apparently the size of a grain of rice. Dr Sanders, allegedly has patents on medical and surveillance equipment used by the CIA and FBI, Honeywell and Teledyne. On discovering prophecies in the Bible he apparently became a Christian and now lectures on the topic.

If Marrs had named a few more so-called sources and avoided wild speculation he may have been more credible. One diligent skeptic
John S. Torell ( check out this link ) did manage to track down Carl Sanders and in a thorough investigation totally discredited him. Ultimately it seems the man is liar, thriving on the intrigue of being seen as knowledgeable in matters that he had very little to do with and stretching the truth beyond credibility in the process.
There is no doubt that technology is becoming pervasive and personal - and it's getting closer all the time. However you don’t have to stretch the truth to show where the potential threats lie. For example implantable tracking devices are now commonplace for pets. Many cats and dogs have been implanted, as have the animals at Auckland Zoo. The technology has been developed for human use to track executives, or the children of the rich and famous in case they are kidnapped.

I met a man a decade ago who owned a pet branding business and believed pet tagging would soon become commonplace. To show how 'harmless' it was my contact rolled his sleeve up revealing a small scar. He had one of the pet chips in biologically safe glass implanted in his forearm. When scanned at distance of a couple of metres the reader said "DAD01".

Professor Kevin Warwick of the Cybernetics department at the University of Reading in the UK had a 4cm long chip implanted in his arm for a 10-day period in August 1999. It identified him to the university computer network so doors opened as he walked through the campus and computers greeted him verbally. He predicts this is the future of communication between humans and computers.

While we would do well to be warned by what is possible as a novelty factor at the leading edge of technology, sensational stories about governments and technology houses collaborating to inject permanent ID tags under our skin are wearing thin. Forced branding of individuals is a naïve notion in an enlightened age concerned with personal freedoms.

Back in 1968 when former Databank general manager Gordon Hogg first put the idea of a national ID card for New Zealand it was quickly thrown out as it has on every other occasion when the subject has been raised. Look at the fuss we made about the plastic license.

Originally (National 1999) communications minister Maurice Williamson suggested a smart card – we ended up with dumb plastic, a barcode and digital photo. While the license will undoubtedly become a de-facto ID for proof of age or verifying cheques, to extend its use in any way requires an act of Parliament. Kiwis are rightly cautious about any invasion of privacy by the State.

The symbolism used by St John around AD90, when he took dictation from Christ and the angels for the Book of Revelation, invites a more symbolic and timeless understanding than informing us 1900 years later we're about to become walking credit cards. The Bible makes it clear the love of money is at the root of all evil, not swiping for your groceries at the supermarket.

Here’s my crack at interpretation. Most people use their more capable "right hand" to earn a living, unless of course they’re "sinister" lefties like me. If you're academically inclined you'll use your "forehead" or your brain to make your way in life. Most of us use a bit of both.

At the most basic level, the human building block or the carbon atom comprises 6 electrons, 6 protons and 6 neutrons. This is the stuff from which we’re made. Ultimately six is the number of humanity operating at its basic, physical, egoistic, beastly level.

While locked in the lower mind men and women remain seekers after personal pleasure, opting for endless distractions to cover up the inner desire for deeper, more meaningful engagement. In biblical terms this is sinning, or according to the the origins as an ancient archery term,  'missing the mark. The challenge is to rise beyond the outward form and its carnal instincts, to look at the target and aim higher at more worthy and selfless mental and spiritual pursuits (Romans 7:23 / Jude 1:19).

The mark, or the name of the beast, may have more to do with how we apply our thoughts and actions than the machinations of some global dictator tracking implanted chips. The number seven is the seal of God, the seventh day of rest, and spiritually aware, responsible humanity in right relationship with each other and in tune with creation.

Man was created "in the image of God" on the sixth day - 666 is selfish, humanity putting the creature before the Creator. The alternative to 'beastly' behaviour is godly behaviour. I agree with both Christians and extremists on one major point, don't take ‘the mark of the beast'.

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