Part 6: Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles(excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)
Many people alive today are convinced that our civilization is in a dark age, cut off from divine favor, and on the verge of collapse. But it's healthy to note that similar beliefs have been common throughout history.
As far back as 2800 BC, an unknown prophet wrote on an Assyrian clay tablet, "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end." In the seventh century BC, many Romans believed Rome would suffer a cataclysm in 634 BC.
Around 300 BC, Hindus were convinced they lived in an "unfortunate time" known as the Kali Yuga -- the lowest point in the great cosmic cycle. In 426 AD, the Christian writer Augustine mourned that this evil world was in its last days. According to the Lotharingian panic-mongers who lived more than a 1,000 years ago, human life on earth would end on March 25, 970.
Astrologers in 16th-century London calculated that the city would be destroyed by a great flood on February 1, 1524. American minister William Miller proclaimed the planet's "purification by fire" would occur in 1844. Anglican minister Michael Baxter assured his followers that the Battle of Armageddon would take place in 1868. The Jehovah's Witnesses anticipated the End of Days in 1910, then 1914, then 1918, then 1925.
Oddly, no major prophets forecast cataclysm for the years between 1930 and 1945. Is there any time in history that was more deserving of being called the "Apocalypse" than that period? The Great Depression was the most widespread, long-lasting economic disaster ever. During World War II, 50 million civilians and 25 million soldiers were killed.
John Ballou Newbrough ("America's Greatest Prophet") wasn't impressed with the tragedy of that era. After the war, he promised mass annihilation and global anarchy for 1947.
The website A Brief History of the Apocalypse lists over 200 visions of doom that have spilled from the hysterical imaginations of various prophets in the last two millennia.
Our age may have more of these doomsayers per capita than previous eras, although the proportion of religious extremists among them has declined as more scientists, journalists, and storytellers have taken up the singing of humanity's predicted swan song.
In her book For the Time Being, Annie Dillard concludes, "It is a weakening and discoloring idea that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time but that it is too late for us. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree by your street than there was under the Buddha's bo tree."
I invite you to go sit under that tree by your street.
Read Part 1 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."
Read Part 2 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."
Read Part 3 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."
Read Part 4 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."
Read Part 5 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."
© 1995-2013 -- Rob Brezsny. All rights reserved