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War in Heaven

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — for the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare Project ]

This story is my featured entry from the Art of Future Warfare project’s “space” war-art challenge that called for a fictional account of conflict in space during the 2090s.

It was one of four finalists, but not the winner. David Brin, who was on the final panel of judges, commented when returning my submission:

Fun and entirely poetical. And therefor immune to critique based upon normal fictional narrative standards.

He also added a neat short story of his own at the end of my piece: The Avalon Missions. As he said, it’s a similar piece in some ways.

Here’s the opening of my story:

** ** **

War in Heaven

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

— Revelation 12:7


The humans who nano-uploaded their minds — more accurately brains — were aware, as their uploads were not, that whatever their uploads “felt” was not also felt by them, nor was this awareness available to their uploads, once launched into space. The uploads, meanwhile, nano-burrowed deep into their designated asteroid, and continued to experience the unpleasant symptoms of phantom limbs and recursive Beatles songs, which drove them into a state known to their human progenitors, roughly speaking, as madness. Nano-small as they indeed were, they felt themselves masters of their own destiny and thus infinite in significance, and after some made futile attempts to maim others using legs, feet, fists and teeth they did not possess, the time came when, pretty much en masse, they committed Off.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Typo, our Art of Future War theoretician mused as she read the Atlantic Council’s latest Challenge, Space and Interstellar Conflictthey must mean Spice Wars. Sun of Future Tzu is what they’ve asked for, Sun of Future War they’ll get.

She trans-historicized and began to channel…


Holy Russia, having more or less won the Great War of Faith against Unbelief (2025-37 with continuing skirmishes), was in a commanding position to colonize and mine the moon — but a few of the Disbelieving remained, holed out in a substantial cave in the Rocky Mountains impervious to tactical nukes — and plotted revenge. They had many scientists among them, not persuaded by the mumbo jumbo of spirit and sacrament, worshippers at the altars of calculus and calibration, and though their rocketry was primitive in manufacture it was devastating in its impact.

They pitched swarms of tiny projectiles at the great Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines of the Holy Rus Empire, and diligent application of mosquito-like stings brought the great temples of Empire to their knees. Some claim the strategy derived from one Paul (or Jack) van Ripper, some from a treatise on statecraft named The Once and Future King – no matter, it worked beyond belief.

The Rus, under the Tsar Rus Putin IV, finally gave up on the moon and moved their Makers to Mars, thereby gaining the Twenty Years Respite (2054-76) in which they could build their uninhabited civilization unhindered. But how could the sacramental nature of Rus spirituality, Orthodox to the core, flourish in a terraformed world of lively auto-conscious machines?

It was the Great Fool, St Basil II, whose limericks and nudity finally collapsed peasant belief in the Tsar’s omnipotence, dislodged the siloviki in the Second Great Revolution (2077-79) with the battle-cry “the Tsar is naked” (aided by pitchforks, rifles, grenades), and led to the Regular Folks Tribunals which denounced space travel and sent Folks’ Greetings to the embattled Final Americans deep within Cheyenne Mountain.

Meanwhile, the Holy Rus Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines mined on, preparing Mars for habitation that was fated never to occur.


Words are many, worlds are many more, if possible.

** ** **

To read the rest of my story, please visit the Art of Future Warfare site: War in Heaven.

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 ]

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.



  • 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.



  • 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.

    Agreeable disagreement, disagreeable agreement

    Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

    [jotted down quickly by Lynn C. Rees]

    1. Politics is the division of power.
    2. The power divided is a variable mix of violence and influence.
    3. The division of power tends to favors those who best wield violent power.
    4. The reason of man exists for victory, not truth.
    5. Victory is measured in agreement, the number of minds who fuel a division of power.
    6. Agreement is peace, a thinning in politics.
    7. Disagreement is conflict, an escalation in politics.
    8. Agreement, once agreed, tends to stay agreed.
    9. Agreement that stays agreed is the most effective way to convert agreement into violence.
    10. The ultimate measure of victory is how well it converts agreement into violence.
    11. Man tends to stay agreed with what he already agrees with:
      • it is the most powerful fuel for the politics of others he agrees with.
      • it reduces power lost by making new agreements.
    12. Man tends to agree with whatever agrees with increases in his own division of power.
    13. Maintenance of the objective, concentration of power, and keeping the initiative are powerful contributors to victory.
    14. Refusal to disagree with what he already agrees with tends to keep:
      • man’s eye single to the glory of his objective
      • man’s power concentrated
      • man from losing the initiative
    15. Yet politics divides power by converting disagreement into agreement.
    16. The intensity and mix of disagreement dictates the intensity and mix of violence and influence needed to convert it into agreement.
    17. Influence is the refinement of argument.
    18. The reason of man exists to refine less effective argument into more effective argument.
    19. Where the argument of influence fails, the argument of violence might succeed.

    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.



  • 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.

    Quake in Nepal as Act of God

    Monday, April 27th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — before the Pat Robertsons get a word in.. ]

    DoubleTweeting Indian responses to the quake:



    Note: Rushdie Explains is a parody account, but the newspaper is genuine.

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