Apocalyptic expectations have been the motor behind countless religious movements, from major world religions to backwood cults. The surging forces of science and technology seem to dominate the world today. In either case, there is the conscious working towards Godliness and Immortality, although these goals have been manifested in a million different forms. From the early Christians and the gory apocalyptic rantings of the Book of Revelations to the New Agers bearing crystals and eating sprouts, there has been a yearning over the centuries to transcend the limits of worldly bodies, time and space to become part of something eternal. Whether this greater power manifests itself as Jesus, Hitler, or a UFO, it can still be defined as the focus and hope of human beings who need something to believe in, which includes all of us.

EARLY CHRISTIANS began as an apocalyptic community
cannibal king - Nero persecuted the early Christians for the fire that broke out in Rome. The Romans thought the Christians were a bunch of cannibalistic fanatics, who partook daily in eating the body and drinking the blood of their lord.
burn in hell - Revelations was the hope of Christians in a time of persecution, it announced the supernatural overturning of the existing order. Fiery descriptions of the apocalypse gave the Christians hope in a time when things seemed hopeless, and allowed them to look smugly at their persecutors with the thought of the unforgiving hell the Romans would soon endure at the hands of the vengeful Christian God.
but not now - The apocalypse is the revolutionary side of Christianity - once Christianity gained world power, the promise of the apocalypse had to be de-politicised or made into an allegorical story or at least postponed.
scare tactics - Christians tend to label anything that scares them as the Antichrist, the ultimate evil to be fought tooth and nail. The Antichrist has assumed many guises over the centuries, first Nero, later Communism, and now rock and roll.
free spirits - The antinomian cult known as the Brotherhood of the Free Spirit spread across Northern Europe in the 1200's claiming that the incarnation of the Holy Spirit was taking place in each of themselves. Mercilessly persecuted by the church, the movement went underground, but the homeless wandering heretics continued excoriating the bloated greed and hypocrisy of the church and searching for a new society, new age, and new erotic freedom.
plagued - In 1260, during the Black Death, ordinary people left their homes and everyday lives to become Flagellants. These masochistic folk took to the roads of Europe, whipping and lashing themselves in the militant and bloodthirsty pursuit of the millennium.
what the children see - Protestants went a little nutty in search of the Millennia during a time of persecution under the hands of the French Catholic King Louis XIV when he revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Little children were trained to become seers, going from town to town announcing the reign of the Antichrist and the imminent Second Coming of the Lord.
triumph of art - The Renaissance was a new millennia in its own right, when human self-perception went from groveling sinner to near Angelic free-thinking individuals who could determine and change their world through the arts and sciences. Paganism wed Christianity.

diving for dollars - In 1776 a group of people, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were given the job of designing the seal that is still on our Dollar bill today. The seal consists of a pyramid symbolizing the people, and the severed triangle embossed with an eye hovering on the top. The eye represents God and the script around the image reads "He the Deity with the radiant eye favors our venture to create a new world order." In other words, the birth of America was seen from the millennial perspective as the coming of the Kingdom of God after the destruction of the millennium.
free love - In the wake of New England Puritanism, John H. Noyes founded the Oneida Perfectionist community, a supposed model of the coming Heavenly Kingdom where there is no marriage, but only the "untrammeled bliss of love." Noyes did not promote violent or irresponsible sex, but sex as "the permanent and sacred tie that binds [the community] together. . . for it is our religion."
the Mormon way - Joseph Smith, an early Mormon received the "call to polygamy" through an overwhelming vision, claiming that God wants his elect to take many wives to "multiply and replenish the earth" to prepare for the millennia.

insanity clause - In 1843 at the opening of the Utica State Lunatic Asylum for the Insane, "religious anxiety" was listed as the number one cause of insanity. In the book The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteeth Century, Jonathan B. Butler and Ronald Numbers describe two types of insane Millerites: Those believers "so full of ecstasy" that some refused even to eat or drink, and the unconverted who feared that Miller's prophecy might be correct, "who have distracted their minds by puzzling over it, thinking about it, and dreading its approach, who have sunk into deep and hapless melancholy" Graphic sermons by Millerite evangelists caused intense anxiety in their adherents regarding their chances for survival. "They listened to the description of the orthodox hell until it seemed to curdle the very blood in their veins, and burned an impression upon the tablets of their memory. They became lost in imagination, and they saw only the wreathing flames of the fabulous hell, and heard only the shrieking of the doomed."

serpentine twist - There are snake handling cults in the rural south who base their version of Christianity on the Bible passage about the End that states, "And these signs that follow them that believe: In my name they shall... take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them... (Mark 16:17-18). When the typical Kentucky snake handler cult member holds a poisonous rattlesnake in his hands, he is not only defying death and playing God, he is hastening in the millennium.

bourgeois bashing - The Russian Revolution of 1917 is a classic example of apocalyptic ideas expressing themselves in anti-religious ways. Instead of hating the devil, one hates the bourgeois, instead of adoring the savior, one adored the leader in the form of Lenin. This worshipping of a secular leader as the savior is most evident in Lenin's waxed face and embalmed corpse on display in Moscow, that has become a pilgrimage cite.
the offensive organ - The Skoptsy are a self-mutilating sect of believers in the Russian Orthodox church who best illustrate Russian apocalyptic extremism. The Skoptsy, meaning "Eunuches" took a passage of the Bible very seriously that said "And there are eunuches, who have made themselves eunuches for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 19:12)." The Skoptsy castrated themselves because they believed that sex was the cause of human bondage, and the key to hastening the coming of the Kingdom of God was to remove the offending organ.

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