6. The conspiratorial apocalypse

6. THE CONSPIRATORIAL APOCALYPSE

The conspiratorial apocalypse is a part of the larger phenomenon of conspiracy theory. The expression “conspiracy theory” is frequently used in popular culture to describe secret military, economic or political actions meant to steal power, money or the freedom of the majority. Conspiracy theories are based on the notion that major events are the products of plans unknown to the general public, emanated by an elite which, depending on fears and the level of understanding, is identified with Freemasonry, the Illuminati, New Age occultists, aliens or other imaginary or real groups. As in the case of aliens, there is an entire literary and documentary universe dedicated to conspiracy theory.

While the expression “conspiracy theory” is a modern creation, the idea of conspiracy exists ever since the world has the image of the invisible supernatural battle between good and evil. Conspiracy is seen as a perfidious method through which evil is trying to undermine good. Conspiracy theory is used to blame someone or something every time there is a feeling of a crisis. Each historical context has its conspirators. In the first centuries the Romans saw the secret practice of Christianity as a conspiracy meant to destroy the empire. In the Middle Ages the devil constantly conspired to corrupt Christians or it cooperated with the Jews to undermine the religion of Christ. During the Reformation, when the Papacy was demonized, Protestants portrayed a conspiring Antichrist, who rises from within society through subversive means. On the other hand, Catholics saw the Reformation as a great devilish conspiracy meant to destroy the institution of God. The Puritans feared popish conspiracies. The Salem witch trials is one the first examples of conspiracy theories in the history of America. After the American Revolution there were fears of British conspiracies or satanic conspiracies. Theologians such as Darby claimed that elite groups sold their soul to Satan to gain power and money, becoming the pawns in a supernatural game of chess. Through these agents mankind was pushed to accept a global government, based on the spiritual foundations of a false religion in which the Unholy Trinity – the Antichrist, Satan and the False Prophet – would be adored.1345 During the Second World War Nazi and Neo-Nazi conspiracies circulated. During the Cold War the Americans saw Soviet conspiracies. Aliens conspire ever since they came to public attention, while other current Christian theories state that the False Prophet will be a pope or a New Age guru, and the Antichrist will be the president of the world or a Muslim caliph.

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1. The ideological chaos of the 20th century

1. THE IDEOLOGICAL CHAOS OF THE 20th CENTURY

It is hard to believe that after 19 centuries of prophecies, debates, messianisms, revelations, apparitions, interpretations, speculations and historical and biblical analyses, the 20th century could bring something new regarding the issue of the end of the world. Yet, the development of knowledge not only led to the invention and the discovery of a multitude of new apocalyptic scenarios, more or less viable, but it also changed the rules of the game.

First of all, the 20th century brought homogenization. It is true that the United States of America remained the champion of fatalistic beliefs. But the means of communication allowed the apocalyptic fears to transcend the national, cultural, geographical and even religious barriers. Any place on the globe can become the perimeter of an apocalyptic manifestation, without the necessary presence of an Abrahamic religion. Technology changed the religious dynamics, allowing the groups to be infinitely more malleable than in the past. Global communication helps ideas find adepts in the most remote places of the world. Hence, the concept of extremist group separated from the decayed society no longer requires a physical closeness between its members, but only an intellectual intimacy.

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6.5. The year 1666: the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London

6.5. THE YEAR 1666: THE BLACK PLAGUE AND THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON

It is strange that in the first part of the Middle Ages historical documents said nothing about apocalyptic manifestations related to the year 666, but there were fears related to 1666. The year 1666 is no more apocalyptic than the year 666, although it might be seen as the sum between the Millennium (1,000) and the number of the Beast (666). The similarity between the year 1666 and the number of the Antichrist was obvious, but it came in contradiction with the apostle’s words: “here is wisdom”; there was nothing wise in looking in the calendar and seeing that the year 1666 was approaching.753 And yet, as a strange coincidence, the year 1666 hosted three major apocalyptic manifestations, independent of each other: in Asia Minor, the Jew Sabbatai Zevi reached the apex of his messianic career;754 in Russia, the reform of the Orthodox Church broke the community of believers in two, leading to antichristical slanders and a long civil war;755 and in England the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London created a hellish atmosphere.

Same as in the 14th century, the havoc of the plague represented God’s tangible and immediate fury. The years 1665-1667 were years of horror for the Londoners. The writings of the time portray a terrifying picture of the society affected by this ruthless disease. Although it is considered to be a work of fiction, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year from 1722 is based on a solid documentation and describes

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4.2.4. The Black Plague and the flagellants

4.2.4. The Black Plague and the flagellants

In a society in which the rules of hygiene and microbiology were unknown, diseases were a normal aspect of everyday life. From the 1st century until the 14th century Europe was swept repeatedly by microscopic agents. The smallpox epidemics of the 2nd and 3rd centuries exterminated around five million people, and in the 4th century the bubonic plague put an end to the life of 25 million people. In this macabre history of epidemics, the angel of the Black Plague (or the Black Death) swooped upon mankind with a legendary fierceness: between 1348 and 1400 killed around 100 million people in the entire world and it reduced Europe’s population by a third.329

Wars, famine and climate contributed to the severity of the pestilence. In the 14th century the Little Ice Age began. The unusual rainy autumn of 1314 marked the start of a series of very cold and wet winters, with almost inexistent spring crops. Between 1315 and 1322 the Great Famine stroke much of Northwestern Europe, causing extreme levels of crime and misdemeanor, diseases, collective deaths and even situations of cannibalism and infanticide. The death toll was in millions. The famine manifested itself mainly because of the adverse conditions, but also due to the demographic growth of the previous centuries; the productive capacity of

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1. The apocalypses of the early Christianity

1. THE APOCALYPSES OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANITY

For almost two millennia the Christian doctrine has ignited and fueled the majority of apocalyptic manifestations that have occurred in the entire world. The main reason behind this state of things has been the divine urge for practicing proselytism, amplified by the geographical and demographical spreading of Christians and by the political and economic power of the Christian nations. Between the 4th and the 21st century Christianity had the largest number of followers, in the last two hundred years dominating Europe, America, Australia and the south of Africa.

Christianity is a religion that transforms man into a being pleasing to God, capable of doing good and rejecting evil. Unlike Judaism, which is mainly an exclusivist, defensive religion, destined to a small group of people, Christianity (and Islam) is an expansionistic religion; it encourages the spreading of the gospel, as Jesus did, in order to convince non-Christians to convert. Christians are urged to

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3.3.1. The Antichrist

3.3.1. The Antichrist

According to the dominant Christian view, toward the end of time mankind will undergo a process of decadent evolution marked by sufferings, pain, wars, earthquakes, floods, fire, diseases, famine, corruption and ultimately the apogee of all evils in the person of the Antichrist, the supreme tyrant. The advent of the Antichrist signifies the culmination of the moral degradation, a mundane state in which the sin will be so strongly rooted in human society that divine intervention will be necessary for the reestablishment of order and the salvation of the world from obliteration.

The Antichrist is a fascinating entity. His tremendous power, his dreadful darkness and the major role he will have in history have inflamed the imagination of the Christian theologians and fueled endless speculations. The Antichrist is probably the most debated apocalyptic entity, for three reasons: his advent in the world precedes the Second Coming of Christ, the fate of the Antichrist is to be defeated by Christ, and the Book of Revelation

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3.3. The signs of the end

3.3. THE SIGNS OF THE END

The Revelation of John, or the Apocalypse of John, is the last and the only entirely prophetic book of the New Testament. Its main theme is the end of the world. Revelation was most likely written around the year 95 AD, when Christianity was heavily persecuted by Roman authorities. The scribe of Revelation is traditionally identified with John the Apostle, while the author of Revelation is undoubtedly Jesus Christ: “What thou seest, write in a book ... I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:11, 17-18).

The word “apocalypse” comes from the (Romanized) Greek apokalypsis (apo – “far”; kalyptein – “revelation”), usually translated as “discovery” or “revelation.”25 Thus, the name of the final biblical book denotes its main theme and the purpose of its writing: the mystical description of the future of the Church of Christ and of the entire world (Revelation 1:1). However, in modern culture the word “apocalypse” is synonymous with “catastrophe” or with the end of the world. This is due to the fact that,

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2.2. Divine revelation as a theological root

2.2. DIVINE REVELATION AS A THEOLOGICAL ROOT

The divinity, which holds the absolute control over the world, reveals – more or less – to people its plans for the human species. Some religions speak about total extinction; others refuse to mention anything about an end, while others prefer a middle way. In this last case the end is depicted as a dramatic transformation of the world under the watchful eye of the divinity. The end of the world event does not simply happen, out of nowhere, totally unexpected. It has a meaning, being a phase of mankind’s evolution.

The concept of the end of the world can be found in the cultures that contained a myth of universal creation. The myth of the world’s birth and the myth of the world’s death are antagonistic, being built on the ancient pattern of the battle between order and chaos, good and evil, light and darkness, life and death. The two myths, when they are put together, express the idea of temporality, universal duality and ultimately the divine will. Concurrently, they were instruments through which human societies attempted to create a frame for understanding the passing of

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History of the Apocalypse

HISTORY OF THE APOCALYPSE

by Catalin Negru

FIRST EDITION - EBOOK

Copyright © 2015 Catalin Negru. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

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Foreword

FOREWORD

This preface is not included in the ebook or the printed book, but we chose to include it here to make for a better reading experience and to explain certain aspects which may seem peculiar in the format of the ebook.

(1) For those of you who are reading an ebook for the first time, it must be noted that it does not contain special characters specific to various languages, or it does so within strict limits. In order to avoid potential display errors, most authors, myself included, choose to replace special characters with similar letters in the English alphabet. "Ü" becomes "U," "æ" becomes "ae" or "é" becomes "e." In the same manner superscript characters such as "21st" or "45°" become "21st" and “45 degrees” respectively. Here, on the website, the text contains special characters. Characters specific to Greek and Hebrew have not been removed in the ebook as this would have altered the accuracy of the text and the message.

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