9. The self-destructive apocalypses of the third millennium


In the 21st century predictions continue to have a stronger effect on society than prophecies and messianisms. While predictions, when they are well-grounded, are taken very seriously into consideration, prophecies and messianisms are ridiculed or become alarm signals for possible terrorist or suicidal actions. This trend forces the contemporary mystics to adapt and – as the 2012 phenomenon demonstrated – to skillfully use scientific data to support the validity of their prophecies. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the traditional harbingers of apocalypse “expired.” In fact, the veritable apocalyptic propagandists of the 21st century are no longer the prophets, the clairvoyants, the mediums, the astrologers or the insane, but Hollywood. Not even the scientists, who warn us with clear proofs about our possible grim future, have such an influence as the movies. Apocalypses, of any kind, are extraordinary subjects for screening. And Hollywood does not care about religious doctrines or scientific laws. From impossible apocalypses, produced by zombies, apes, vampires or even plants, less probable apocalypses, as the apocalypse of the machines, to possible apocalypses, caused by climate failure or another natural phenomenon, the film industry has a large palette where it can choose from. Its only purpose is to make money. And in order to do that it produces entertainment or, in this case, exploits our greatest fears.

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7.2. The fascination of numbers


At first glance, the source of the apocalyptic fascination with the years 1000 and 2000 might be the obscure texts of Revelation 20, where the expression “a thousand years” or “thousands of years” (according to other Bible versions) is used six times. Revelation 20 is the foundation of the entire millennial doctrine, but the text does not refer expressly to the years 1000 or 2000; this is why the “thousand years” was interpreted over time either symbolically or literally, as a specific and practical calendrical unit. In any case, religion cannot explain why the attraction for the year 2000 transcended the cultural and religious barriers; it was not limited to Christian people. And if we ask ourselves what exactly in nature functions according to cycles of 1,000 or 2,000 years, the answer is nothing. This means that the explanation to the problem of the year 1000 or 2000 is not to be found in religion, but in psychology.

The number 1,000 seems mystical, powerful and especially complete for the simple fact that it is a round number. The modern man thinks in the decimal (base 10) system of numeration; he imagines, conceives and organizes his environment though this system of numeration. Money is the best example of the way we apply numbers in the material world: we have money of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 1,000 or 2,000 units. Nowhere in the world is there money of 3,245 units, of 1,415 units or any other numerical values that are difficult to operate with.

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3.2. The apocalypse of religion


The presence of extraterrestrial beings fundamentally alters our conception about universal history and undermines the religious phenomenon by simply killing the idea of divinity or supernatural being. Before the advent of aliens the Universe had a complete spiritual form. From an Abrahamic point of view, the devil represents the evil, God represents the good, and the earth is a battleground between the two sides. Human beings: the victory trophy. But science shows that the Universe is unimaginably vast and mankind is only at the beginning of its quest for knowledge. Claiming at the moment that there is no life on other planets is a proof of fanaticism or stupidity. Yet, it is almost impossible to formulate theories which include in the same universe an all-powerful God and intelligent beings from other planets without violating religious dogmas.

God and aliens are in conflict with each other because they both aim to master the same object: man. Aliens, through the contactees, do not speak about an all-powerful god whom they represent, but about the fact that they are our gods. And there is no doubt that an official contact with extraterrestrial civilizations would cause massive social unrest and the collapse of the religious phenomenon; an absent god, supported by questionable beliefs, would not stand a chance against a visible and immediately accessible god, supported by science. The belief in aliens can be classified both as a religion and as a more sophisticated version of atheism. Aliens are not supernatural beings, but natural beings that have the advantage of knowledge. They are scientific gods because they, through their existence, confirm astronomical and biological theories regarding the phenomenon of life.

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3.1. The age of the contactees



For now, the strongest scientific argument that supports the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent beings is only a statistic: the Universe is so big that there has to be other life forms that possess intelligence and abilities to shape their environment. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, comprises over 100 billion stars, and the known Universe comprises over 100 billion galaxies. Hypothetically, if one in a million planets capable to support life would be indeed populated with life, and if one in a million planets that would be populated with life would also shelter intelligent life, then there would be millions of intelligent species in the Universe. So, following this reasoning, it is unlikely that Earth is the only planet that supports life and man is the only intelligent being in the Universe. The statistics, however, regardless of their kind, cannot serve as an indisputable proof that we are not alone, a proof that has been missing to this day. Accordingly, believing or not believing in aliens is a personal choice.

The current cultural image of aliens is chaotic and even hilarious, being formed of inexhaustible theories, countless “evidence” and lots of contradictions. On the one hand, huge funds and efforts are invested in scientific research to find microorganisms on various celestial bodies or to intercept a signal from unearthly intelligent beings. On the other hand, there is the media circus with flying saucers, aliens who violate our private property, enter houses without knocking at the door, disturb people’s sleep, sample cells, have fun raping or kidnapping humans, conspire to destroy us all, more aliens, secret experiments and human history rewritten. Since the beginning of the 20th century an industry that exploits our fascination and passion for the sensational has been developed. Compared to other paranormal topics (magic, Spiritism, fortune-telling, ghosts), aliens are at the top of the public’s preferences. Figuratively, we assist at an alien “invasion” in our everyday life: on TV, on radio, on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines. Whether they are denied or accepted, the multitude of books, movies, video games, commercials or toys proves the fact that aliens are a modern legend with important mercantile implications.

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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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5. The Third Great Awakening


It is debatable if a Third Great Awakening took place indeed between 1850 and 1900, or whether what happened was only an extension of the Second Great Awakening. A religious awakening must be preceded by a religious sleep of the masses. Almost a century separates John Winthrop’s discourse from the First Great Awakening. Likewise, there are more than 60 years between the First and the Second Great Awakening. Until the middle of the 19th century the religious awakenings and sleeps interchanged. Instead, the Third Great Awakening started immediately after the Second Great Awakening; there was no period of religious relaxation and, furthermore, the general euphoria was weaker compared to the previous awakenings. The problem was that the Second Great Awakening lacked closure; a good part of the religious systems and utopias which began in the first part of the century extended into the Third Great Awakening. The world and science were changing fast and religion had to keep up the pace; there was no time for another religious relaxation.

The Third Great Awakening seems to have been an irrational reaction to the spreading of atheism and the pressure exercised by science upon religion. In 1859 Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution undermined the infallibility of the Bible, the foundation of Christianity. Social Darwinism, a faulty philosophy which stated that man “must do good,” began to develop. Occultism, theosophy and spiritualism – irrational spiritual movements – rose in reaction to this materialistic and rationalistic attack, at the same time signaling that the theological synthesis of the Second Great Awakening failed. In the middle of the century a large number of Americans were disillusioned by the prophetic or utopian failures, by the problem of slavery, or by the problem of racial and gender inequality. In 1857 a financial panic erupted, causing economic chaos, the bankruptcy of many banks and of the railway companies. The American states were on the brink of collapse and a civil war seemed unavoidable due to the slave-owning issue.

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7.1.2. Napoleon the Beast and the repatriation of the Jews

7.1.2. Napoleon the Beast and the repatriation of the Jews

The convulsions of the French Revolution gave birth to a political figure that was easily classified as the Antichrist: Napoleon Bonaparte. From a young artillery officer in the French army, Napoleon became emperor over half of Europe within only seven years. During the French First Republic he led successful military campaigns against the First and the Second Coalition, he managed to obtain crucial positions in Italy and Egypt, gained influence and forged alliances for France. The decisive step in Napoleon’s ascension occurred in 1799, when he took advantage of the chaos of the revolution, overthrew the Directory through a coup d’état and installed the Consulate with himself as the First Consul. Five years later his ascension on the scale of power culminated with his coronation as emperor.

Napoleon was associated with the Antichrist for several reasons: he was seen as a progeny of the French Revolution, he tried to subdue Great Britain, he conquered most of Western Europe and created an empire that resembled the Roman Empire, he dethroned the pope and annexed the Papal States to his empire, and last but not least his military genius reminded Christians of the Messiah awaited by the Jews.

Napoleon’s dream was to become as famous as the great leaders of the past; his actions copied those of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar or Charlemagne.824 In 1797 Napoleon decided that the naval power of France was not prepared to confront the Royal Navy in the English Channel. Instead, he led a military expedition in Egypt to undermine the access of the British in India and to satisfy his fantasy of walking in the footsteps of Alexander. Through the Concordat of 1801 with Pius VII Napoleon aimed to win the pope to his side, but he also imitated Charlemagne in becoming the protector of the church.

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7.1.1. The Reign of Terror and the Cult of Reason



7.1.1. The Reign of Terror and the Cult of Reason

The French Revolution was a major event of the modern era, which marked the decline of monarchical power in Europe and set the bases for the future democratic systems. Between 1789 and 1799 France experienced all governance systems: it successively passed from absolute monarchy, based on the divine right of kings, to constitutional monarchy, where “the king reigns but does not rule,” and then to republic. The absolute monarchy that ruled France for centuries collapsed in only three years. French society went through an epic transformation as the feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under the assault of the revolutionary liberal policies, while the old ideas about hierarchy and tradition succumbed to the Enlightenment principles of citizenship and equal rights.

For centuries, French society was divided into three estates: the First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the nobility) and the Third Estate (the common people). The relation between these three estates was highly disproportionate, the first two estates (the superior estates) being supported exclusively through the energy of the Third Estate (the inferior estate). While the Third Estate was lacerated by hunger and poverty, the Catholic Church was the largest landowner in France and Europe. The church was exempted from paying taxes to the government, but it was collecting its own taxes. It also kept the registers of births, deaths and marriages, being the only institution that offered hospitals and primary and secondary education.

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6.6. Isaac Newton and the decline of astrology


The separation between science and superstition was a process that lasted more than three centuries. The increasingly accepted mechanical theory of causality and the image of a tridimensional Universe, in which neither Earth nor the Sun is in its center, were the main causes of the decline of astrology. At the beginning of the 16th century the Polish Nicolaus Copernicus issued the heliocentric theory, but he was ignored. Then, the Italian Giordano Bruno dared to say that the Sun is only a star among an infinity of other stars, but the Inquisition burned him at the stake. Galileo Galilei reaffirmed heliocentrism and decisively contributed to the determinist and infinite conception of the Universe.791 Finally, the German Johannes Kepler believed that he discovered God’s universal geometrical plan; in Mysterium cosmographicum from 1596 and Harmonices mundi from 1619 he said that the geometrical figures were the primordial models of the Creator in the decoration of the entire world.792 The world was created after an intelligible plan that is accessible through the natural light of reason. The “heavenly physics” – as Kepler named it – is that part of mathematics which studies the divine architecture and the connection between the physical and spiritual layers of Creation. The Universe itself was believed to be an image of God, with the Sun corresponding to the Father, the stellar sphere corresponding to the Son, and the space between them corresponding to the Holy Spirit.793

By applying quantitative measurements to terrestrial and celestial phenomena, the elites began to make a distinction between science, superstition and pseudoscience. Indeed, in the 17th century the separation between the domains was far from clear: there was still not a clear distinction between astronomy and astrology, but there was a separation between astronomy (a part of mathematics within the liberal arts) and physics (a part of natural philosophy).

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