It’s in the running now. Enough catastrophes have happened, of all manner and scope, that our collective, human psychological reaction calls for a major reality overhaul of some kind. As cyclic circumstantial crises loom up on the earth, the mind of man has developed a sort of Jungian archetype in response. We call it, The End of the World.
And it has consumed society before, fairly recently. In the mid-19th century, even Edgar Allan Poe took it seriously–as seriously as he ever took anything.
The Amazon display of my book on Poe allows
a certain amount of reading of this text. Have a look.
Or is this an understanding based on the traditions of Western Civilization? Is a cataclysmic ‘end of the world’ only a Biblical teaching? Obviously not, although the spectacular Hebrew concepts of sudden existence and sudden annihilation may have been first, oral or recorded. Genesis is certainly among the earliest depictions of cataclysm. The Hebrew version of reality always associates cataclysm with collective guilt and universal punishment. Certainly there is great moral capital to be gained from that take on reality. Indeed, the cause of catastrophe is unmistakable in scripture: it is the result of human rebellion against the Creator.
Without delving into the devil, or the Satanic-based aversion to reality, suffice it to say that the Adversary has limits (else he would be equal with God), and therefore, God is in ultimate control over disaster–even if Satan directly caused it. God is still manager of all that occurs. This is the profundity of Hebrew theodicy.
But, according to scripture, the world has ended before. (Genesis 6:5-8.) It is referred to as “the Flood.” None but eight human beings were willing to accept the escape route (Noah’s ark). Yet, the earth and water remained. All was simply turned inside out, the physiological relationship, the locale, the balance was simple rearranged. It was still earth and water. Of course, then came the message of a second ending–by fire. In this one, “the elements shall melt with a fervent heat,” but the earth will be made new. (See, Isaiah 64:1-3; 66:15,16; 65:27; I Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:7; 20:9,10; 21:1,4.)
And again, the number of humanity willing to avail themselves of the escape route (–in this second case, the Ark of the Covenant, or, the blood of the Lamb on the Seat of Mercy) is miniscule compared to the population of the earth. This is always part of the Biblical presentation: the saved are few in number. The Hebrew scriptures clearly depict the present earth as under a curse, and humanity naturally averse to its Creator. Therefore, or, as likely, only a precious few are willing to look at reality differently. Only a rare breed divorce themselves from this world–and remain sane. The “religious” of the world are generally not those among the divorced. As Jesus said, “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14.
The matter of being saved as being few, elite, or chosen, (as opposed to being merely interested, or being an enthusiast, or being openly averse), may also be some profound Jungian archetype–so profound it may be exclusively Jewish. It may be a distinct collective image of the Jewish psyche alone. Of course, it is carried into the Christian faith as well.
And, in a sense, it is simply the result of concentration, or perfectionism. Perfection requires waste, in a peculiar sense. The sculptor chips away much stone to shape his image. Even the carpenter shaves off a lot of wood to square up his lumber. The performing artist must practice hours and hours, to perfect only a few moments of physical triumph. (It is not then an exclusively Jewish archetype that perfection is the rarer state, if even when speaking of human moral character.)
But to escape the ultimate catastrophe; to be saved from the horrors awaiting the natural world, the convulsions around the globe–what state of mind, body, or life shall procure that treasure?
Clearly, catastrophe is on the increase, of every grade. Thus, the market for redemption. How do we get out of it? Buy gold? Stock up on supplies? Head for the mountains? Vote Republican? Pile up guns and ammo? Watch TV news?
Who’s in charge here? Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” you’ll make it, at least in one sense. You’ll have escaped the demonstrable errors of hysteria–ever so common among the “low information voters,” as Rush Limbaugh calls the morally indolent (or “morons,” or “lemmings”). But will you escape the end of the world? Will having master some mental exercise of self-control redeem you from the cataclysm?
There will be no cataclysm, you might say. If there is, it won’t end everything. The earth will rejuvenate as it was designed to. Some such construct of thought will provide present psychological relief from any too real sense of fear.
In any case, the end of the world is becoming a popular subject. The Mayan bit is not particularly outstanding, actually. Just because it is not an American scientific theory doesn’t make it’s lure of specific dates to be any less foolish or extravagant. Our scientists urge global warming upon us. Modernity has numerous prophets of doom. It’s a forceful sell. It can get disruptive and disturbing to society, and with a government like our present one in Washington, such apocalyptic surges will likely be outlawed as dangerous to society.
In the mean time, we probably do very well to ponder our options here. I think we should beware of moral indolence, of shirking responsibilities, of avoiding uncomfortable encounters, all in the name of ‘keeping our heads about us.’ We mustn’t cripple ourselves by our own calculations; yet, we must be flexible enough to allow ourselves to be saved.
So then, it is probably a likely scenario that, whatever the Bible says about the end, every religious profiteer will be feverish in his pursuit of the millennium. Every conceivable scriptural interpretation will have its following. This is America, land of free enterprise and competition. That’s how we perfect things. Even Islam looks for a cataclysmic end–which they believe themselves obligated to bring about by violence. (Speaking of violence, it is the ultimate condition of human depravity which caused the Lord to destroy the earth the first time. Genesis 6:11.) It is abundantly clear that there is a profound, conscious foreboding in the world at this time in history. Everyone has a take on it.
That being the case, I would not look for redemption among any overwhelming majority.