The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are among the most important of the great Bible symbols because they give the key to the nature of man as we know him. When you understand these symbols thoroughly you will understand your own make-up, and you will be able to begin the work of getting dominion over yourself and over your surroundings.

The Bible is not written in the style of a modern book. It has a method all its own of conveying knowledge through picturesque symbols, the reason being that this is the only possible way in which knowledge could be given to people in all ages in different parts of the world and of different degrees of spiritual development.

The Bible is not full of predictions. The Bible does not undertake to say just what is going to happen in the future, because if this could be done it could only mean that we have no free will.

If the future is all arranged now, what would be the use of praying or studying metaphysics?

Why did Jesus pray for so many hours, if he could not change anything?

But, of course, you can change the future and the present by prayer, and indeed, it is your attitude that makes or mars you—makes you sick or well, happy or sad, stupid or wise.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stand for the four parts or elements of our human nature as we find it today. As we know ourselves we seem to be made up of four parts.

There is, first of all, the physical body—the thing that you see when you look in the mirror.

Then there is your feeling nature or emotions. This is an extremely important part of you, and although you cannot see your feelings, you are tremendously conscious of them.

There is your intellect. You cannot see this either, but you are quite aware of its existence, because it contains every bit of knowledge, important or unimportant, that you possess.

Finally, there is your spiritual nature, or your real eternal Self; the true you, the I Am, the Indwelling Christ, the Divine Spark, or what you please to call it. This is your real identity, which is eternal. Almost everyone believes in its existence, but for the most part people are very little conscious of it as an actuality.

Students of metaphysics are aware that ultimately the time will come when the first three will be merged into the fourth, and then we shall all know instead of only believing that our spiritual Identity is our reality. Meanwhile, however, this is not the case, and so we find ourselves living with these four elements of our Nature—and the Bible calls them the Four Horses.


The Pale Horse

The first horse we shall consider is the pale horse and "pale" means the color of terror. Perhaps you have seen terror depicted on a human contenance—I do not mean just nervousness or moderate fear, but terror. It is not a pleasant sight. The skin turns a kind of ashen gray, and this is the color of the Pale Horse. "And his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed after him." Revelations 6:8

Well, the Pale Horse means the physical body, and here we are told that he who rides on him is death, and that hell follows hard after.

If you are that kind of horseman, if you live but for the body, there is nothing but hell awaiting you on this plane or anywhere else. People who live for the body are to be pitied. The body is the most cruel taskmaster of all, when it is allowed to be the ruler.

The person who lives for eating and drinking and sensuality brings nothing but destruction into his life right here on this plane. To him old age brings decrepitude and emptiness, and probably pain and discomfort too.

But the Pale Horse does not mean only the physical body. It means all other physical things too—what the Bible sometimes calls the "world”—money, position, material honors. If you put money before everything else, you are riding the Pale Horse. Money is your God, and you will probably get it, but you will be sorry, because hell follows after.

Other people do not care for money, but they do crave worldly honor and distinction. They want to be important or special. They want to be looked up to. They are not thinking of how much good they can do in the world, but how much attention they can get. They are riding the Pale Horse, and hell follows after.


The Red Horse

What is the Red Horse? The Red Horse is your emotional nature, your feelings. Your human (ego) mind, as you know it, consists of two parts, intellect and feeling. Every thought that you can think has two parts, a knowledge content and a feeling content.

In mathematics, to take an extreme case, the feeling content is almost absent. On the other end of the scale are thoughts connected with religion and politics. We all know how full of feeling these subjects are. People feel so strongly about them that they are generally tabooed at social gatherings—and yet the amount of real knowledge that most people have concerning them is surprisingly small.

For instance, few people have really studied the doctrines of the particular church to which they belong. Yet they feel very strongly about them and are apt to resent the slightest criticism concerning them. The intellectual content of such thoughts is very small. It is very dangerous to allow your emotions to have control—to allow the Red Horse to run away with you, for he will undermine your health and wreck your life in every phase.

The Red Horse is just as dangerous as the Pale Horse, but he is not so obviously base, and for this reason he wrecks many more lives.

An adult person is a person who is master of his feelings. A person who is not in charge of his feelings is still a child, even though he be a hundred years old. If you are not master of your emotions, your emotions will control you and wreck you. This does not mean that emotion or feeling is a bad thing in itself. It means that uncontrolled emotion is a bad thing.

A strong emotional nature is a like a great powerful automobile. If you learn to master it, it is a fine thing. It will take you wherever you want to go, through the roughest country, because it is full of power. But if you do not control it, if you do not understand how to steer it, or if you are stupid and step on the gas when you ought to step on the brake, the car destroys itself and you with it, just because it is so powerful.

A strong emotional nature is a splendid endowment if you are the master, but if it is mastering you, you are riding the Red Horse; and if you are riding the Red Horse you had better get off as soon as possible.

How do you know if you are riding the Red Horse?

Well, if you get excited over nothing at all, if you get angry and indignant about trifles, particularly when it happens to be none of your business; if you are trying to run other people's lives and getting excited about that, then you are riding the Red Horse—and you had better get off. The time when you learn to control your feelings is the time you will begin to make something of your life.


The Black Horse.

"And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, 'A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.'" Revelations 6:5-6

A pair of scales, that is, a balance such as a grocer or a druggist uses, is here a symbol of famine or lack. The Black Horse stands for the intellect, and if you ride the Black Horse you will get famine and starvation of the soul.

Very few people ride the Black Horse as compared with the number of those who ride the Red one, but some do, and the civilized world as a whole has been riding it for several centuries.

To ride the Black Horse does not mean having a good intellect. That is not a bad thing at all. In fact, a great many people, particularly in the religious world, would be much better off with a little more intellect than they have.

Riding the Black Horse is letting your intellect dominate you to the exclusion of the emotional and spiritual nature. It is a good thing to have the intellect well trained and polished by use, but it is a misfortune to let it be the master.

The human intellect cannot give you the truth about God. If you try to live without knowledge of God, without prayer or spiritual contact, you are certain sooner or later to reach a condition of depression and disappointment, for that is the fate of the Horseman on the Black Horse.

Western civilization has been definitely riding the Black Horse since the close of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance rediscovered the intellect and that was a splendid achievement, but western civilization did not keep the intellect in its place. It was allowed to become the master.

This development has given man the power to make high explosives, for example, and to build submarines and aircraft, but because his spiritual development has lagged so far behind his intellectual achievements, he uses these things for destruction and tyranny.

Had the understanding of true religion kept pace with scientific discovery, such knowledge would be used for the enlightenment and happiness of mankind instead of for its destruction. All this is riding the Black Horse.


The White Horse

Here we have the solution of all our problems. "And I saw, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer." Revelations 6:2

The White Horse is the Spiritual Nature, and the man or woman who rides the White Horse gets freedom, and joy, and ultimate happiness and harmony; because the White Horse is the realization of the Presence of God.

When you put God first in your life, when you refuse to limit God, when you will no longer say that God cannot do something, when you trust God with your whole heart, you are riding the White Horse, and it is only a question of time until you shall be free—when the day will break and the shadows flee away. The White Horse will carry you to health and freedom and self-expression; to a knowledge of God, and finally the Realization of Him.

We are told two very interesting things about the Horseman on the White Horse: The Bible says that he that sat on him had a bow. The bow and arrow is an ancient symbol of the spoken Word. The spoken Word brings things to pass. When you speak the Word you shoot an arrow. It goes where you aim it and it cannot be recalled, nor can it return void.

Note that the Word does not have to be spoken audibly. Silent prayer is usually more powerful than audible prayer. The Horseman on the White Horse speaks the Word.

The rider on the White Horse wears a crown, and the crown has always been the symbol of victory. Whoever wins in a struggle gets the crown. The Greeks used to give a crown of palms to the winner of a race, and all through history kings have been crowned. The crown is the symbol of victory, and the rider on the White Horse is always the victor.


This, then, is the story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

If you want peace of mind, if you want healing, happiness, prosperity, and freedom; above all, if you want an understanding of God, there is only one way—you must ride the White Horse.

If you are interested only in material things, or if you are letting your emotions run away with you, or if you are trying to judge eternal values by finite intellectual standards, you are riding one of the other horses and only trouble can come to you.

The fatal defect in the Roman Empire was that it rode the Pale Horse, and we know what happened to it.

Our own civilization for about four hundred years has ridden the Black Horse, and we see what has come of that. Now, however, I believe that humanity is ready, or nearly ready, to climb upon the White Horse, and we must all help it to do so in every way that we can by prayer and by personal example.

This, then, is the way in which human nature, as we know it, is made up. We seem to have four elements, but as a student of metaphysics you know that only one of these is real and eternal.

This, of course, is your Spiritual Nature. Some day you will realize this and then the other elements will fade away into nothing, leaving you spiritual, complete, and perfect. That event, however, will not come yet; and in the meantime you have to understand the fourfold nature in order that you may be master of it.


From Alter Your Life written in 1931 by Dr. Emmet Fox Emmet Fox was one of the outstanding spiritual teachers of his time. While he lived he addressed some of the largest audiences ever gathered to hear one man's thoughts on the spiritual meaning of life.





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