Obama: From Heaven's Gate to Hell's Portal in Four Short Years
First there is the important distinction between apocalyptic and millennial. For Landes, the former has to do with the End Time, not only that it exists -- which isn't really a problem -- but that it is imminent.
Or, as the Rolling Stones interpreted the mindscape in 1968, a storm is threatnin', a fire sweepin', and war a-comin', all just a shot away. It's like a backdraft situation. All someone has to do is open the door -- or, more likely, kick it in -- and the world is consumed in the purifying/punishing conflagration.
So the apocalyptic involves "a sense of immanence about the great upheaval and the scenario whereby we now go from this evil and corrupt world to the redeemed one" (Landes).
Although the Book of Revelation is all over the apocalypse, Christianity -- in fact, Jesus himself -- also explicitly teaches that one is not to waste time trying to determine when it will occur. It's like trying to figure out when you're going to die. First, you can't do it. Second, it's a waste of your brief allotment of time. Third, if it's fixed in time, you can't do anything about it anyway.
For example, we don't really care if a Mohammedan happens to believe that the 12th imam is going to come down here someday and straighten it all out for us. Fine. Whatever. We only have a problem if they think they can shorten his work or hasten his arrival by, say, acquiring nuclear weapons and blowing Israel off the map. (Speaking of which, I'm not sure if our new Persian cat is working out. See picture below.)
Which makes no sense anyway, because Islam, like Marxism, is completely fatalistic. It never made any sense for Marxists to foment their revolutions, since their own metaphysic insisted that the Revolution would occur necessarily and scientifically, as a result of the workings of the Dialectic.
But as we shall see, the apocalyptic has a deep structure with its own form and momentum. It doesn't matter what kind of intellectualized nonsense people come up with to explain it to themselves, whether "scientific" or religious. From this deeper perspective, scientific Marxism is exactly like a UFO cult, a cargo cult, or even the bizarre Ron Paul cult.
One might say that millenialism is the theory, apocalypticism the application. Thus, apocalyptic believers "tend toward hyperactivity. Indeed, the more impending the end, the more frenetic their behavior" (Landes).
These are people who literally burn their bridges to the past, to the present, and to any future other than their apocalyptic scenario. And I say "literally," because normally we are aware of an implicit temporal bridge that connects one moment to the next.
For the apoplectic apocalypter, it's a zero-sum game. Allah or nothing. Go big or go to hell. Sinner take fall. It is, as Landes says, "totalistic," in my opinion because it again partakes of the symmetrical logic of the unconscious (discussed in yesterday's post), in which past, present, and future are all intermingled, interchangeable, and copresent, as in dream consciousness:
"If one event is before another, then the principle of symmetry states that to the unconscious the second event is also before the first. 'Before' and 'after' thus become meaningless -- all time is simultaneously present" (Bomford).
There are different apocalyptic scenarios: "some are violent and envision cosmic destruction," others "transformative and call for a change of the heart" (Landes). Some are active and "involve human participation," while others are more passive.
Nevertheless, even the passive variety places radical demands upon the believer. Think of the Heaven's Gate cult from a few years back, in which the members auto-raptured themselves in anticipation of being beamed up to the awaiting spaceship.
In this context, eschatology has to do with the specific end envisioned by this or that apocalyptic scenario. In other words, where does this all lead? What's the point?
In secular forms, such as Al Gore's climate hysteria, millions if not billions of ecological sinners perish as a result of our greedy use of fossil fuels. Religious versions often come down to God's final judgment, both of individuals and of the world they made. It is the radical application of cosmic justice, in which everyone finally gets what he deserves, right in the kisser.
Landes draws an important distinction between the secular and religious eschaton. In the former, people either create heaven on earth -- i.e., immanentize the eschaton (Voegelin) -- or face the complete destruction and the annihilation of everything.
If you are old enough to remember, this is how the left attempted to undermine Ronald Reagan's successful strategy of defeating the Soviet Union, by propagating apocalyptic rhetoric and appealing to the "apocalyptic unconscious," so to speak.
Ironically, a big part of this involved an indiscriminate projection of their own apocalyptic fantasies onto Reagan, as if he intended to engage in a nuclear exchange in order to trigger the millennium. They did the same thing to Goldwater in 1964, with their infamous "daisy ad."
Reagan was, like most any Christian, a millennial believer. But he specifically wanted to defeat the Soviet Union by spending them into oblivion, not going to war with them. Obviously, he made the secular apocalyptic scenario less likely, not more likely.
Landes reserves the word millennialism for "the belief that at some point in the future, the world we live in will be radically transformed into one of perfection -- of peace, justice, fellowship, and plenty."
These elements were transparently present in the Obama campaign of 2008. Interestingly, I believe we will see him go from the hopeful millennial script of 2008 to a ferociously apocalyptic one in 2012. Note that until recently, Obama had been able to project the apocalypse into the past, into Bush; now it will have to be projected into the future, but it's the same old apocalypse.
Meet the new Kos, same as the old Kos.
In short, just as in the 1980s, the left will accuse the Republican candidate of wanting to end the world as we know it, of wanting to reward the greedy and evil, overturn justice, set back the clock, chain women to the kitchen, lynch blacks, force back alley abortions, have the elderly eating cat food, and generally impose our Fascist Theocracy™. In other words, the very mirror image of Hope, along with a kind of totalistic Change, only all bad this time.
When lost in the dream time of apocalyptic thought, going from heaven to hell is a matter of the flick of a switch. Obama's doing so is a scandal, really. Let's call it Heavengate.
As promised, our new Persian: