The end of the world - an overview
Posted on Wednesday, 28 November, 2012 | 10 comments
Columnist: Kathy Watts
If we could step back and take a good look at the current state of our world and civilization, one could certainly argue that our days could be numbered, be it at the hands of man or nature. Almost every country on earth has fallen victim to deadly acts of terrorism, including that of the United States, India, Russia and every European country. The global economy is seemingly on the path to self-destruction. In addition to wide-spread poverty, disease and famine, natural disasters of biblical proportions have occurred, including Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami the likes of which are seen only once in several centuries. Ever-growing ecological and environmental disasters plague every corner of our planet, drifting us further and further from repairable solutions. Politically and religiously, fundamentalist and extremist groups rationalize their actions as means to ends that only instill further global discord. And, through the magic of television, cell phone cameras and other technologies, we get to see these disasters unfold in real-time, some of them being calamities that no one had ever seen before, while nestled in the comfort of our own homes. When the physical world gets impossible, people turn to the spiritual world to keep themselves going. Sometimes, the sheer promise of an end to the misery can be sweetest salve of all.
And he that sat upon the throne said,
Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me,
Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Christian and Judaic peoples have faced centuries of war, slavery, and prosecution. They are no strangers to the horrors as portrayed in the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or the Book of Revelations. The battlefield of Megeddo has been the site of pivotal bloody encounters in the empires of the past. In the 1400s BC the Egyptian king Tuthmosis III fought and defeated the Canaanites there. Symbolically it is the perfect and natural place for Armageddon, the final spiritual show-down, to occur.
The fascination with the world ending after one thousand years is based on the literal interpretation of Psalms 11:04, "A thousand years are in Thy sight as one day." There was a spread of panic through Christendom as the year 1000 AD approached. This was a bit redundant, though, as daily life was already severely difficult and life expectancy short.
The world was a radically different place as the year 2000 approached. More people were literate, affluent, and intellectually (as well as emotionally) involved with their religions. Much of the faith of the Middle Ages had yielded to science and rationalism, but true faith will never totally go away. This was demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands globally who feared that the year 2000 marked the biblical end, as well as the end of global technology with the impending millennium-bug. There were several consenting voices that arose to set the record straight; among them, Anomalist/Scientific Investigator Christopher Chacon. A researcher/investigator with the Office of Scientific Investigation and Research, he and several other scientists with the organization, dismissed these end-of-world concerns. "We have found no evidence to support that any type of global cataclysmic event would take place in 2000", stated Chacon in a 1995 interview.
If your faith is of the conviction that the Messiah has not yet arrived, then pre-millenialism describes the thousand years of waiting required for the Messiah's appearance. If in a faith that maintains the Messiah has already appeared, then post-millenialism describes the belief. Once the End Times begin, believers anticipate one thousand years of preparatory peace before the final destruction of this earth and the creation of the new improved blissful world to come.
The End Times, proper, are graphically laid out in the Book of Revelations. To update these events and bring them into the present day, LaHaye and Jenkins have written the Left Behind series of novels. Basically, using the Book of Revelations as the skeleton plot, they have meticulously visualized the events in Revelations as they might happen in the here and now of the late twentieth century. You may not agree with their representations of the Beast, of 666, of the Anti-Christ, the plagues, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Whore of Babylon, or the Seals, but the novels are an entertaining, engaging and blow by blow view of the End Times. If you never buy their books but sit down and read the Book of Revelations, LaHaye and Jenkins probably won't be too displeased.
A spiritual end of the Christian world includes a personal judgment by God, and the promise of a reward in Heaven. This appears in the Koran for Muslims, also.
The Judaic world is still resolutely awaiting the first and only coming of its Messiah. There is a complicated list of required signs to herald the End Times, and several Christian fundamentalist groups are cooperating and actively working to bring these things about, to ease the arrival of the Messiah. One requirement is the building of the Third Temple in Jerusalem, and this requires a specifically marked red heifer for sacrifice and temple consecration. Indeed, a cattle breeder in O'Neill Nebraska has been sending red heifers to Israel in hopes that a successful breeding program is underway.
INTERPRETING THE END: The Classical Ends of the World OR A Social, Political, Economic End of the Modern World
...things fall apart
the center can not hold....
The Second Coming
China is one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, and the Chinese have weathered more than their share of disasters. The Mongolian invasion of 1253 AD by Kublai Khan is only one. If China does not have a legend or tradition of the end of the world, they do have a full-blown after world, or hell that is complete with ghosts, demons, and bureaucrats that snugly parallel those in the living world.
The civilization of Ancient Egypt may not be alive in the same sense as China, but it is still sending ripples into our modern world. Egyptologist John Baines of the University of Oxford has interpreted passages in the Coffin Texts to indicate a belief that one day the gods will depart and when only Ptah and Osiris remain, the world will dissolve.
In general, though, the ancient Egyptians believed in a more stable eternity. Human life might be short, but human dwelling in the Duat after death was very long. Temples and tombs were built of stone and intended to last for eternity but even the palaces of the kings were built of mud brick. Amazingly, even the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III was built on a Nile flood plain so that the river might inundate the floors of the structure, something that the architects and engineers surely knew would doom the building in a very few centuries. Amenhotep III was the "Sun King" in the 1400s BC of the New Kingdom,when ancient Egypt's empire was largest.
Also in Asia, in India, the Hindu sacred book Surya Siddhanta describes earthly existence and civilization in terms of cycles or yugas, the final being the Kali Yuga, that began around 3100 BC. The Kali Yuga is the shortest yuga and when it ends, so does this world, presumably to eventually begin a new cycle.
In the 600s AD, the Mayans of Central America were accomplished astronomers and built numerous temples, each with their own specific stone calendars. Mayan tradition allowed for five full cycles (sometimes called 'suns'). The fifth and present sun began in 3114 BC, which loosely resonates with the beginning of the Kali yuga.
The Mayan calendar is complicated and not even the experts agree on the exact end date of the fifth sun. (This is not too different from the debate among modern Western tropical astrologers of exactly when the Age of Pisces ends and the Age of Aquarius begins.) There is no debate, though, about the date of the Winter Solstice 2012, which is December 21. John Major Jenkins (a dedicated independent Mayan researcher and educator) in his book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, brings home the significance of this. In the year 2012 when the Sun enters the sign Capricorn and reaches the southernmost point of the ecliptic, it also conjuncts the Galactic Center. The Mayans attributed great importance to the Milky Way, our home galaxy. The artist and Mayan scholar Jose Arguelles also attached great significance to the Milky Way in Mayan lore. According to NASA, the link between the Mayan calendar and the end of the world started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, was headed toward Earth. The catastrophe was originally predicted to take place in May of 2003, but when that did not occur, it was then associated with the end of the Mayan calendar by New Age prognosticators. In contrast to scientists at NASA, Professor Kahmra Malley of Rutgers University asserts that the Mayans did indeed predict the "end of world" long before the Nibiru claims. In a 2012 interview with Weekly World News, Professor Malley clearly stated that the Mayans had predicted the end. "They knew how long the world would last and they were extremely confident about the apocalypse", states Malley.
Throughout history, for each and every prophecy interpretation of a pending "doomsday", there are thousands who take each impending end of world predictions quite seriously. For example, the French government is presently concerned about possible mass-suicides that could take place with a "doomsday commune" of some 20,000 located at the base of Pic de Bugarach in southern France. The cult commune and picturesque mountain, rumored to be associated with everything from alien visitation to ancient supernatural rituals, has been the focus of several recent news reports because of apocalyptic beliefs surrounding the December 21, 2012 date.
In the 1995 interview with Chacon, he also responded to questions regarding the Mayan calendar and the "end of time" claims. Chacon stated, "In addition to the traditional archaeological/anthropological sources, we have had unprecedented access to "other sources/materials", not available to mainstream academia or the general public, some extremely obscure and others newly discovered. While the research yielded compelling new insights, and also taking into account thousands of other variables, including scientific and archaeological, we have concluded that there is no evidence to support any type of global cataclysm will take place on December 21st, 2012." While the world may not in-fact end, numerous natural disasters are still being anticipated by other prognosticators for December 21, 2012. Jose Arguelles, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Carl Calleman all seem to think that what will end is some old way of thinking or consciousness, to be replaced with a new more enlightened global and cosmic consciousness. Rather than dwelling on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes or blizzards, most Mayan experts are counting down to the end of the current mindset that dominates the world. The experts look forward to some fresh new progressive paradigm.
It might be worth pointing out that, in most astrology systems, the energy of a conjunction (such as our winter solstice Sun conjuncting the Galactic Center) is strongest as the conjunction perfects, or becomes exact. The most crucial time is immediately before the exact conjunction. Astrologically, the crucial time is not December 21, 2012 proper, but the years and months immediately before that date. This has been happening for the last few years, and this conjunction is slowly perfecting right now. Perhaps a slow-going end of the world is happening before our eyes.
These classical cultures also share the phenomenon or legend of the coming and going of an avatar, a great leader who organizes, saves, then ultimately leaves his people behind. China still reveres The Yellow Emperor who united and first ruled the Middle Kingdom. Ancient Egypt revered the god Osiris, whose son Horus the falcon-headed sun god was also the embodiment of every king of the Two Lands. The most noteworthy of Mayan kings was Pacal (the Shield), sometimes called Pacal Votan, who lived 603-683 AD and whose tomb was discovered in 1948. We can also include the Inca civilization's avatar and god Viracocha, and the Aztec avatar and god Quetzalcoatl (who, for better or worse, the last Aztec king Montezuma thought was embodied in the Spanish conquistador Hernandez Cortez). With the departure of a people's avatar, the civilization ended, be it slowly or catastrophically.
Looking around the world today, there seems to be a dearth of avatars and a plethora of potentially catastrophic problems. Politically, the countries of Europe seem to still be coping with a paradigm change that began with the French Revolution of 1789. China seems to still be feeling its way into the twenty-first century, after having been dragged into the twentieth century by the strong wills of men such as Sun Yatsen, Chiang Kaishek, and Mao Zedong. Most of Africa and Asia are struggling with ways to reconcile tribal governments, economies, and religious traditions with the rest of the modern world. The Islamic countries are in the midst of political and economic upheaval, while trying to preserve the best elements of their historic and religious past. The unprecedented and burgeoning Arab Spring, as well as the Occupy movements across the countries of Europe, reveal a change of mind and heart that can uproot many stagnant principles and institutions of the past.
The atom was split in the 1940s and nuclear weapons and power plants have proliferated but we have yet to destroy ourselves with them. Jonathan Schell, who wrote the germinal book Fate of the Earth at the end of the Cold War, has gone on to write The Seventh Decade, almost apologetically explaining why we are still here and may remain for a while longer.
In converse to world destruction, one could also postulate that the recent U.S. election could be interpreted as another clear example of monumental global renewal and social transformation taking place around the world. An exponentially growing population of people sharing a new type of progressive, alternative thinking that could arguably be a positive sign of mankind's evolution into something greater. In this regard, the "end of the world" or "end of time" term would still be applicable, but its meaning better interpreted as a type of re-set on human nature. If ever a world were in the heart of some grand transformation of identity and belief, it's our world now.
The Physical End of Planet Earth
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper
The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot
Name your poison. The evening news, and popular literature and entertainment, is full of possible horrors as well as live coverage of real disasters. The South Asia tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, the Japan earthquake of 2011 and of course the freak monster-storm Sandy are fresh and raw memories in the minds of the viewing public as well as in the daily lives of the millions who survived the end of their local personal world. Huge earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and hurricanes and typhoons are all natural disasters that have occurred countless times in the geologic record. Never before, though has the population of the world been seven billion, with most of these people living in cities along coastlines or low-lying areas.
Global warming may or may not be produced and aggravated by our post-industrial revolution civilization. What matters is that climates have changed in the past, and it will happen again, with or without our help. Scientists and politicians (who control huge funds that sometimes scientists compete for) can argue about some impending ice age, or non-reversible greenhouse effect, but it will matter little to the millions of people living in areas where sea levels are changing or Category Five hurricanes strike.
The Earth's magnetic field has reversed polarity many times in the geologic past. This discovery revolutionized the science of geology and pioneered the widespread acceptance of continental drift and plate tectonics. Yes, the continents drift, too. It's also possible that the rotational poles of the Earth have flipped. With continental drift to complicate archaic maps of the Earth, it's hard to eliminate this possibility. Any of these Earth changes would radically affect if not end our modern civilization, so dependent on modern technology. A massive blast from a solar flare, powerful enough to rip off or damage our protective Van Allen belts, would wreak the same havoc.
In our cozy corner of the Solar System, an ongoing program scans the sky for near-Earth asteroids that might strike the Earth with fatal consequences. This happened more often in the earlier days of the Earth, and there are huge ghost craters on the continental shields of Canada and Australia as testament to this. Only now are scientists beginning to explore the coastlines and ocean floors for telltale signs of prehistoric asteroid or cometary strikes, any one of which having sufficient power to end whatever civilization existed, if not to threaten the extinction of whatever life was prominent on the Earth. For example, 65 million years ago an asteroid, huge meteor or comet did strike the Yucatan peninsula, initiating a global disaster that ended the Mesozoic era and the reign of the dinosaurs, a species that had thrived for tens of millions of years.
More mysteriously and much more recently, on June 30, 1908 something fell from the sky onto the tundra of Tunguska in Siberia, destroying forests, starting massive fires, and sending an atmospheric pressure wave that registered on barometers around the world. Was it a meteor? A comet? A tiny black hole? No remnant has ever been found, so we still don't know what kind of cosmic bullet the Earth dodged that day.
If a neighboring star in our Milky Way were to explode and become a supernova, the Earth and entire Solar System would be unable to weather the cosmic storm. Before the light reached us, the gamma ray burst from the explosion would pummel the facing side of the Earth with enough energy to destroy all life on the surface. There is concern, in fact, that the star Betelgeuse, aka Alpha Orionis, might be the most likely red supergiant star in our sky that could blow up in our global face.
Farther afield in deep space, astronomers witness worlds ending every day. It's hard to tell sometimes from reading the science news articles how long ago those worlds ended, but with the Hubble telescope, with the Spitzer telescope, and with the Kepler telescope, astronomers are recording the death of stars as they explode and become supernovas. Astronomers also are observing X-ray bursts that may be attributed to large bodies being sucked into black holes. This makes for exciting science news reporting, but it's not too compelling on the evening news.
Mother, Mother, I feel sick.
Send for the doctor, quick quick quick.
Doctor, Doctor, shall I die?
Yes, my darling, by and by.
There are certainly more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in all our philosophies. Also certain (although the ancient Egyptians might not have agreed), that which has a beginning will eventually have an end. Newtonian and modern physics still agree that entropy exists and that the universe at large will eventually wind down, and even time will stop.
Will the End of the World happen on December 21st, 2012? It's as good or bad a year as any. Take it personally or universally, take the short-term view or the long term, and you'll get a different answer. Is the Earth (and the Universe) a uniformitarian or catastrophic system? Will the End be slow and gradual, or instantaneous? Science will never give us all the answers. Neither will the experts of faith, despite the pragmatic instance and certainty of many. Perhaps the two teams together, though, can give us a glimmer of a better understanding of ourselves, and even of our end.
Awakening Osiris, Normandi Ellis, 1988
The Mind of Egypt, Jan Assmann, 2003
Egypt's Sun King: Amenhotep III, Joann Fletcher, 2000
The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, Jose Arguelles, 1987
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, John Major Jenkins, 1998
Galactic Alignment, John Major Jenkins, 2002
The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, Carl John Calleman, 2004
2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Steven Pinchbeck, 2006
The Bible, King James Version
Left Behind, LaHaye and Jenkins, 2001
Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End, Lawrence Joseph, 2008
"Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options," Lonnie G. Thompson, The Behavior Analyst, 2010, #33, p 153-170
The Fate of the Earth, Johnathan Schell, 1982
The Seventh Decade: the New Shape of Nuclear Danger, Johnathan Schell, 2007
http://www.thecityedition.com/Pages/Archive/2009/2012_Doomsday_prediction.htmlArticle Copyright© Kathy Watts - reproduced with permission.