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A dozen or more books on NRMs, apocalyptic, and violence

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — biblio post #2 in preparation for the Boston conference – background on new religious movements and violence ]
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Assuming I’m right that Islamic eschatology is now swinging into focus, and since my interest in the topic was sparked by David Cook at a 1997 Millennial Studies conference, I first recommended monitoring scenarios with global impact involving Bin Laden in an October ’98 job application, and have been more or less doing that myself ever since, most recently via Zenpundit posts, I think it might be helpful to follow up my list of books on Islamic eschatology with one on eschatological movements across the continents and centuries.

Eschatologically driven movements are by no means all violent — think of the Quakers and Shakers, and more recently the Chen Tao group, eg — but when violent or faced with violence, they can be peculiarly explosive, hence Tim Furnish‘s often quoted and and perhaps only somewhat over-emphatic remark:

Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones: triggered by the same detonating agents, but far more powerful in scope and effect.

**

General introductions:

  • Robert Jay Lifton, Superpower Syndrome: America’s Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World
  • Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience
  • Robert Jay Lifton’s book is short and powerful, published in 2003, and opens with the following claim:

    The apocalyptic imagination has spawned a new kind of violence at the beginning of the twenty-first century. We can, in fact, speak of a worldwide epidemic of violence aimed at massive destruction in the service of various visions of purification and renewal. In particular, we are experiencing what could be called an apocalyptic face-off between Islamist forces, overtly visionary in their willingness to kill and die for their religion, and American forces claiming to be restrained and reasonable but no less visionary in their projection of a cleansing warmaking and military power. Both sides are energized by versions of intense idealism; both see themselves as embarked on a mission of combating evil in order to redeem and renew the world; and both are ready to release untold levels of violence to achieve that purpose.

    Richard Landes’ book, longer, richer in detail, and more recent than Lifton’s, explores numerous millennarian movements with an extraordinary breadth of scholarship. The unrivalled best introduction to the topic, but a weighty tome in at least two senses, you have been warned.

    **

    The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism

    Editor Cathy Wessinger writes:

    The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (2011) has chapters on the wide range of millennial phenomena in numerous locations in the world. These include discussions of millennial groups and movements that become involved in violence in different ways.

    Jean Rosenfeld is author of the chapter on “Nativist Millennialism”; Melissa Wilcox wrote “Gender Roles, Sexuality, and Children in Millennial Movements”; John Walliss wrote the chapter on “Fragile Millennial Communities and Violence”; David Cook wrote the chapter on “Early Islamic and Classical Sunni and Shi’ite Apocalyptic Movements”; Rebecca Moore is author of the chapter on “European Millennialism”; Scott Lowe wrote the chapter of “Chinese Millennial Movement”; Rosalind Hacket is author of “Millennial and Apocalyptic Movements in Africa”; Garry Trompf wrote “Pacific Millennial Movements”; Michelene Pesantubbee is author of “Native American and Geopolitical, Georestorative Movements”; Jon R. Stone wrote “Nineteenth- and Twentieth-century American Millennialisms”; David Redles wrote “National Socialist Millennialism”; Robin Globus and Bron Taylor wrote “Environmental Millennialism”; Michael Barkun wrote “Millennialism on the Radical Right in America”; Yaakov Ariel is author of “Radical Millennial Movements in Contemporary Judaism in Israel”; and Jeffrey Kenney wrote “Millennialism and Radical Islamist Movements,” and there are many other chapters ..

    The Table of Contents is available at The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism – Catherine Wessinger – Oxford University Press

    Much appreciated, Cathy!

    **

    Specific treatment of violence:

  • Jeffrey Kaplan, ed, Millennial Violence: Past, Present and Future
  • Cathy Wessinger, ed, Millennialism, Persecution and Violence: Historical Cases
  • Michael Barkun, ed, Millennialism and Violence
  • Robbins & Palmer, ed, Millennium, Messiahs and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements
  • Kaplan’s book is notable for its presentation of the FBI, Canadian CSIS and Israeli official documentation on the violent possibilities associated with the turnover from 1999 to 1000 CE.

    **

    Various:

  • Charles Strozier, Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America
  • Damian Thompson, Waiting for Antichrist: Charisma and Apocalypse in a Pentecostal Church
  • Hall, Schulyer & Trinh, Apocalypse Observed: Religious Movements and Violence in North America, Europe and Japan
  • John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia
  • Particularly important to my understanding of end times thinking is Damian Thompson’s book on a London church, which describes in detail the ways in which parishioners’ world views may incorpoorate disparate elements not present in the church’s official teaching — but available in the church bookstore — and the dg=egree to which congregants ca n affirm the “soon coming” with their lips, while behaving in day to day life as though their grandchildren’s grandchildren will still have the same supermarkets available from which to obtain their milk and groceries.

    **

    Classics:

  • Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
  • Stephen O’Leary, Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetori
  • Cohn’s is the brilliant book that introduced the theme of millenarian thinking to western scholarship, showing plausible links between the medieval eschatology of Abbot Joachim of Fiore and both Marxist and Nazi ideologies. O’Leary’s is the foundational work on apocalyptic rhetoric.

    **

    Case studies:

  • Tabor & Gallagher, Why Waco?
  • Jayne Seminaire Docherty, Learning Lessons from Waco
  • Stuart Wright, ed, Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict
  • Tabor and Gallagher show that events Waco could have turned out very differently had the FBI been willing to listen to eschatologically informed scholars who were in dialog with David Koresh. Docherty is excellent on the dialog necessary between law enforcement and religious scholarship for a peaceable resolution of future clashes with “true believers” in an end times ideology.

  • Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism
  • Ian Reader, Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo
  • Lifton’s is among the best narratives of the Aum Shinriku attempt to poison the Tokyo subway system. Reader’s is a scholarly tour-de-force on the religious roots of Aum’s violence.

  • Jonathan Spence, God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan
  • Vincent Shih, The Taiping Ideology: Its Sources, Interpretations, and Influences
  • Again, Spence offers the narrative, Shih investigates the details of Taiping ideology.

  • Michael Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America
  • James Aho, This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy
  • Kerry Noble, Tabernacle of Hate: Seduction into Right-Wing Extremism
  • Contemporary American extremism. Two of various possible books from Barkun and Aho. Kerry Noble’s book is a classic inside view / case study of a violent movement, the Covenant, Sword & Arm of the Lord, and its complex prophet.

    **

    I requested the help of a group of scholars of new religious movements as I was formulating this list, and will include some of their helpful comments and urther reading suggestions in a follow up post. I haven’t counted, but I may have exceeded two dozen recommendations in h]this post alone/. The topic is not only well-researched in NRM circles, but also IMO signally important at this time.

    A dozen or so books on Islamic apocalyptic

    Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — since this topic is at last swinging into focus ]
    .

    It is my impression that Islamic apocalyptic has finally surfaced as a significant contributor to those interested in questions of contemporary national security — first, through CJC Martin Dempsey‘s 2014 comment that IS has “an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision”, second, through Graeme Wood‘s article What ISIS Really Wants in the Atlantic, third, through the publication of Stern & Berger‘s ISIS: the State of Terror, and fourth (as yet upcoming), Will McCants’ The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State.

    While we’re reading Stern & Berger and waiting for McCants book, though, I thought it might be useful to compile a couple of lists of relevant books, first (here) on Islamic apocalyptic, and second (soon) on the complex relationship between apocalypticism (of whatever stripe) and violence (soon).

    Here’s my list, with comments, of books on Islamic apocalyptic:

    **

    First choice:

  • Jean-Pierre Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam
  • My Jihadology review gets into some detail, but the book is superb. From the concluding pages:

    For the moment, only the Iraqi militia known as the Supporters of the Imam Mahdi has actively sought to translate the rise of eschatological anxiety into political action. Yet one day a larger and more resourceful group, eager (like Abu Musab al-Suri) to tap the energy of the “masses” as a way of achieving superiority over rival formations, may be strongly tempted to resort to the messianic gambit. An appeal to the imminence of apocalypse would provide it with an instrument of recruitment, a framework for interpreting future developments, and a way of refashioning and consolidating its own identity. In combination, these things could have far-reaching and deadly consequences.

    **

    Overviews:

  • Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth
  • Heather Selma Gregg, The Path to Salvation
  • Landes’ book gives an impressive, nay encyclopedic, tour of apocalyptic movements across time and space, excluding Judaic and Christian versions to make space for his expansive survey across time and space (featuring, eg, the Xhosa cattle-slaying of the 1850s), and concludimng with a chapter on contemporary Islamist apocalyptic. Gregg’s slimmer olume is an information-packed tour of “religious violence from the Crusades to Jihad” and from Jerusalem to Ayodhya.

    **

    Varieties of Islamic apocalyptic:

  • David Cook, Studies in Islamic Apocalyptic
  • David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature
  • David Cook’s high-level scholarship explores ancient and contemporary Islamic apocalyptic texts in detail. It was David who introduced me to the topic in the late ’90s at a Center for Millennial Studies conference, not unlike the one David, JM Berger, Will Mcants, Tim Furnish, myself and others will speak at on IS and apocalyptic in early April.

    **

    For specific angles on the issue:

  • Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden
  • Anne-Marie Oliver & Paul Steinberg, The Road to Martyr’s Square
  • Thomas Hegghammer & Stephane Lacroix, The Meccan Rebellion
  • Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days
  • A Azfar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign
  • Joel Richardson, The Mideast Beast
  • Furnish discusses the history of Mahdist movements; Oliver and Steinberg write a passionately engaging narrative of life in Gaza, with special focus on suicide bombers and Hamas street propaganda; Hegghammer and Lacroix cover the Mahdist revolt that kicked off the new Islamic century in Mecca, getting into theological details that resonate to this day; and Gorenberg covers the three competing apocalypticisms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam with respect to the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, which he terms “the most hotly contested piece of real estate on earth”. Azfar Moin’s book gives an account of the quasi-Mahdism of Safavid Iranian and Mughal Indian kingship, in which sufi notions of sanctity and courtly notions of royalty mix and mingle — simply mind-boggling. And Joel Richardson views Islamic apocalyptic through Christian apocalyptic eyes.

    **

    For Shi’ite eschatology:

  • Abdulaziz Sachedina, Islamic Messianism
  • cf Sachedina’s translation of Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini‘s Al-Imam al-Mahdi, The Just Leader of Humanity
  • Abbas Amanat, Apocalyptic Islam and Iranian Shi’ism
  • **

    Reading Islamic scriptures in and out of context:

  • Jonathan Brown, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy
  • It is all too easy to cherry pick quotes to show that Islam is peaceful, warlike or whatr have you: Dr Brown shows us how variously the texts can be interpreted, tus opening the door to a more cautious, context-driven and historically aware of what we read in opposing contemporary polemics. Brilliant.

    **

    In a following post, I shall list books predominantly from the religious studies area, as various authors examines violence in new religious movements, many of which are millenarian / apocalyptic in orientation.

    Sunday surprise: a couple of apocalyptic footnotes

    Sunday, April 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — because they don’t deserve posts of their own, but I can’t resist posting them anyway ]
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    Krasheninnikov prophecies about antichrist and mark of the beast:

    Russian Orthodox adolescent Vyatcheslav Krasheninnikov said the following.

  • Airplanes that go down are hit by demons because they need the airspace to fight Jesus.
  • Dinosaurs live under our level. They will get out through sinkholes and lakes.
  • There will be hole to the abyss in China with radiation.
  • With blood transfusion, sins transfer.
  • Boiled water is dead.
  • Scientists will make a device that will allow people to see demons in the dark.
  • Icons of Jesus will be on the nose of airplanes: similar in submarines.
  • So much for Russia. In the US, meanwhile…

    President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner said:

    Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that’s a legacy. That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn’t do that.

    **

    There are plenty of serious things to be said about apocalypses secular and sacred — but the end of the world is also an endless source of the quirkiest imaginative leaps and punchlines.

    i though Scott in particular might enjoy the prediction about the noses of airplanes and submarines…

    Boston: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

    Sunday, April 19th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — “The now defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University (1996-2003) brings to the public one final conference on apocalyptic beliefs” ]
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    If this was a movie, I’d say the speakers at this conference were a “stellar cast”! Will McCants, Graeme Wood, Cole Bunzel, Timothy Furnish, David Cook, JM Berger, Husain Haqqani.. Paul Berman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali..

    I participated in several of the old Center for Millennial Studies conferences that Richard Landes organized around the turn of the millennium, and they were intense academic highlights for me. I thought it very short-sighted when CMS funding was cut after the turn of the year 2000, agreeing with Dr Landes that millenarianism was unlikely to go away any time soon — and AQ, and IS even more so, have more than proven his point — hence this “final” conference.

    If you can attend, by all means do — highly recommended. I’m delighted to have been invited to attend myself, and hope to keep Zenpundit readers well informed.

    **

    Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad: May 3-4, 2015, Boston University

    Sponsored by the BU History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

    Most Westerners associate the terms apocalyptic and millennial (millenarian) with Christian beliefs about the endtime. Few even know that Muhammad began his career as an apocalyptic prophet predicting the imminent Last Judgment. And yet, for the last thirty years, a wide-ranging group of militants, both Sunni and Shi’i, both in coordination and independently, have, under the apocalyptic belief that now is the time, pursued the millennial goal of spreading Dar al Islam to the entire world. In a manner entirely in keeping with apocalyptic beliefs, but utterly counter-intuitive to outsiders, these Jihadis see the Western-driven transformation of the world as a vehicle for their millennial beliefs, or, to paraphrase Eusebius on the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity: Praeparatio Califatae.

    The apocalyptic scenario whereby this global conquest takes place differs from active transformative (the West shall be conquered by Da’wa [summons]) to active cataclysmic (bloody conquest). Western experts have until quite recently, for a wide range of reasons, ignored this dimension of the problem. And yet, understanding the nature of global Jihad in terms of the dynamics of apocalyptic millennial groups may provide an important understanding, both to their motivations, methods, as well as their responses to the inevitable disappointments that await all such believers. The now defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University (1996-2003) brings to the public one final conference on apocalyptic beliefs, co-sponsored by the BU History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).

    **

    Schedule:

    *All events will take place in the Stone Science Building (645 Commonwealth Ave), room B50

    Sunday, May 3

    10:00-12:00 Introduction:

    1. Richard Landes, “Globalization as a Millennial Praeparatio Califatae: A Problematic Discussion
    2. William McCants, Brookings Institute: “ISIS and the Absent Mahdi: Studies in Cognitive Dissonance and Apocalyptic Jazz”
    3. Graeme Wood, Yale University, Atlantic Monthly: “On the Resistance to seeing Global Jihad as Apocalyptic Movement”

    12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

    1:30-3:30 Panel II: The Millennial Goal: Global Caliphate

    1. Cole Bunzel, Yale U.: ISIS: From Paper State to Caliphate: Hotwiring the Millennium
    2. Timothy Furnish, Independent Scholar: “Varieties of Transformative (non-violent) Jihadi Millennialism
    3. Jeffrey Bale: Monterey Institute of International Studies, “The Persistence of Western ‘Mirror Imaging’ and Ideological Double Standards: Refusing to Take Islamist Ideology Seriously

    4:00-5:30 Panel III: Case Studies in Apocalyptic Jihad

    1. David Cook, Rice University: “ISIS and Boko Haram: Profiles in Apocalyptic Jihad”
    2. JM Berger, Brookings Institute, “The role of communications Technology in mediating apocalyptic communities”
    3. Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute of Near East Policy: “Apocalyptic Revolutionary Politics in Iran”

    Monday, May 4

    10:0-12:00 Panel IV: Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Genocide

    1. Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch, “Anti-Semitism, Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Global Jihad”
    2. Charles Small, “Ideology and Antisemitism: Random Acts or a Core Element of the Reactionary Islamist Global Jihad?”
    3. Richard Landes, BU, “Active Cataclysmic Apocalyptic Scenarios, Demonizing and Megadeath: Taiping, Communists, Nazis, and Jihadis.”
    Comments: David Redles, Michael Barkun

    12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

    1:30-4:00 Final Panel Discussion

    Paul Berman, Independent Scholar
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Independent Scholar
    Jessica Stern, Harvard University
    Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute
    Charles Strozier, John Jay College
    Brenda Brasher, Tulane University

    **

    Selected Work

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Read “Those Who Love Death: Islam’s Fatal Focus on the Afterlife” from Heretic (2015) Here

    Jeffrey Bale
    Read “Islamism and Totalitarianism” (2009) Here
    Read “Political Correctness and the Undermining of Counterterrorism” (2013) Here

    J.M Berger
    Read “The ISIS Twitter Consensus” (2015) Here
    Professor Berger’s latest book, coauthored with Jessica Stern, ISIS: State of Terror, can be purchased Here

    Paul Berman
    Read “Why is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing?” (2015) Here

    Cole Bunzel
    Read “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State” (2015) Here

    Medhi Khalaji
    Read “Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy” (2008) Here

    Richard Landes
    Read “Enraged Millennials” from Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (2011) Here

    William McCants
    Read “The Sectarian Apocalypse” (2014) Here

    Jessica Stern
    Read “The Coming Final Battle” from ISIS: State of Terror (2015) Here

    Charles Strozier
    Professor Strozier’s book, The Fundamentalist Mindset can be purchased Here

    Graeme Wood
    Read “What ISIS Really Wants” (2015) Here

    So: how does it feel at World’s End?

    Saturday, March 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — on conveying the experience of the eschatological — on the way to better understanding the allure of IS ]
    .

    Beatus de Facunda. And the fifth Angel sounded the trumpet: and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit" -- Revelation 9.1-11

    And the fifth Angel sounded the trumpet: and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit

    **

    WE ARE ENTERING PHASE TWO:

    I think we’re entering Phase Two of our conversations about Islamist eschatology.

    In Phase One, the task was to point out that apocalyptic scriptures and scriptural interpretations were a feature of Al-Qaida discourse, and specifically used in recruitment, and this phase was necessary because apocalyptic movements, in general, are all too easily dismissed by the secular mind until “too late” — think Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo, the Branch Davidians in Waco, Heaven’s Gate in Rancho Santa Fe.

    With GEN Dempsey declaring that IS holds an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision”, with Graeme Wood describing that vision in a breakthrough article in The Atlantic, with Jessica Stern and JM Berger making the same point forcefully in their ISIS: The State of Terror, and with Will McCants promising us a book specifically about the eschatological dimension of IS, that need may now have passed.

    In my view, the salient points to be made in Phase Two are:

  • that the apocalyptic ideology of IS has strategic implications
  • that there’s a largely and unwisely ignored area of religious studies dealing specifically with eschatological violence, and
  • that the sense of living in eschatological time is viscerally different — I’ve termed it a “force multiplier”
  • In particular, IS strategy is likely to draw in part on the specifically eschatological last hundred pages in Abu Musab al-Suri‘s 1600-page Call to Global Islamic Resistance. As I noted in my review of Jean-Pierre Filiu’s Apocalypse in Islam, Filiu himself states there is “nothing in the least rhetorical about this exercise in apocalyptic exegesis. It is meant instead as a guide for action”. While Filiu devotes several pages to it, Jim Lacey ignores it completely in his A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab al-Suri’s Islamic Jihad Manifesto, commenting only, “Where appropriate, we have also removed most of the repetitive theological justifications undergirding these beliefs” — see my review of Lacey for the Air force Research Institute.

    I’ll deal with the religious studies literature on violent apocalyptic movements in a future post.

    This post is my first attempt at addressing the feeling engendered by being swept up in an “end times’ movement. I foresee this as my major upcoming area of interest and future contributions.

    **

    SUGGESTED CONTEXTS:

    There’s an extraordinary paragraph in Seduction of the Spirit by Harvey Cox, the prominent Harvard theologian, in which he tells us what the world’s next great encyclopedic work on religion might be like — using the analogy of Thomas AquinasSumma Theologica in a decidedly post-psychedelic age:

    Thus the next Summa might consist not of a thousand chapters but of a thousand alternative states of being, held together not by a glued binding but by the fact that all thousand are equally real.

    Imagine what kind of world it would be if instead of merely tolerating or studying them, one could actually be, temporarily at least, a Sioux brave seeing an ordeal vision, a neolithic hunter prostrate before the sacred fire, a Krishna lovingly ravishing a woodsful of goat girls, a sixteenth-century Carmelite nun caught up in ecstatic prayer, a prophet touched by flame to go release a captive people…

    Religious experience is as wide, and in fact as wild as that, and the lives and world views of a Black Elk, a Teresa of Avila, an incarnation of Vishnu and an Isaiah are as different as cultures can be, united only in the degree of their focus. Cox can list them, he can invite us to consider their experiences in turn, but he cannot entirely bring us into each of their lives. Between them and his readers is a distance not only of cultural imagination, but of conviction, of tremendous passion.

    **

    In Fiction as the Essence of War, George Vlachonikolis wrote on War on the Rocks recently:

    Coker reveals the struggle of many a veteran by asking: “how can someone who was there tell others what it was like? Especially if they can’t find a moral?” This is a thought that will resonate with anybody with a wartime experience. As for me, my 6 years in the Army has now all but been reduced to a handful of dinnerpartyfriendly anecdotes as a consequence of this plight.

    Stern & Berger, on page 2 of their book, ISIS: The State of Terrorism, write:

    It is difficult to properly convey the magnitude of the sadistic violence shown in these videos. Some featured multiple beheadings, men and women toether, with the later victims force to watch the irst die. In one video, the insurgents drove out into the streets of Iraq cities, pile out of the vehicle, and beheaded a prisoner in full view of pedestrians, capturing the whole thing on video and then driving ogg scot-free.

    Some things are just hard to explain in a way that viscerally grips the reader, engendering rich and deep understanding.

    The power of religion is one of them, and that’s true a fortiori of the power of its extreme form, that of those who are “semiotically aroused” — in Richard Landes‘ very useful term — by the power of an “end times” vision.

    **

    I have quoted the first paragraph of Tim Furnish‘s book, Holiest Wars, often enough already, and I’ll quote it again for shock value — I don’t think it’s the sort of analogy that can be “proven” or “refuted”, but it gives a visceral sense of the importance of identifying an Islamist jihadist apocalyptic movement as such, and understanding what that implies:

    Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones: triggered by the same detonating agents, but far more powerful in scope and effect.

    And Richard Landes in Fatal Attraction: The Shared Antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad gives us a sense of how an apocalyptic undercurrent works:

    It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and halfeducated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility. And it occasionally happens that this underworld becomes a political power and changes the course of history.

    **

    A FIRST APPROXIMATION:

    Let me take a first stab at indicating — by analogy — the level of passion involved:

    Cox writes of prophecy, Sylvia Plath of electroshock treatment. In her poem, The Hanging Man:

    By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.
    I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.

    And her description of the same experience in her novel The Bell Jar is no less, perhaps even more powerful — note also the “end times” reference:

    I shut my eyes.

    There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath.

    Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.

    Let me suggest to you:

    Many IS members feel they have been shaken “like the end of the world” and live and breathe in “an air crackling with blue light”.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The illustration at the head of this post is one of many from The Beatus of Facundus, itself one of many brilliantly illustrated versions of Beatus of Liebana‘s commentary on Revelation. I was first exposed to Beatus by an article Umberto Eco wrote for FMR magazine. Eco also mentions the Beatus in Name of the Rose, and indeed wrote a most desirable book on the topic.


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