An essay donated by Kathy Watts
The end of the world: an overview
The end of the world: an overview:
If we could step back and take a good look at the current state of our
world and civilization, one could certainly argue that our days could
be numbered, be it at the hands of man or nature. Almost every country
on earth has fallen victim to deadly acts of terrorism, including
that of the United States, India, Russia and every European country.
The global economy is seemingly on the path to self-destruction. In
addition to wide-spread poverty, disease and famine, natural disasters
of biblical proportions have occurred, including Japan’s devastating
earthquake and tsunami the likes of which are seen only once in several
centuries. Ever-growing ecological and environmental disasters plague
every corner of our planet, drifting us further and further from
repairable solutions. Politically and religiously, fundamentalist
and extremist groups rationalize their actions as means to ends
that only instill further global discord. And, through the magic of
television, cell phone cameras and other technologies, we get to see
these disasters unfold in real-time, some of them being calamities
that no one had ever seen before, while nestled in the comfort of our
own homes. When the physical world gets impossible, people turn to the
spiritual world to keep themselves going. Sometimes, the sheer promise
of an end to the misery can be sweetest salve of all.
"And he that sat upon the throne said,
Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me,
Write: for these words are true and faithful."
Christian and Judaic peoples have faced centuries of war, slavery,
and prosecution. They are no strangers to the horrors as portrayed
in the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or the Book of Revelations.
battlefield of Megeddo has been the site of pivotal bloody encounters
in the empires of the past. In the 1400s BC the Egyptian king Tuthmosis
III fought and defeated the Canaanites there. Symbolically it is the
perfect and natural place for Armageddon, the final spiritual show-
down, to occur.
The fascination with the world ending after one thousand years is based
on the literal interpretation of Psalms 11:04, "A thousand years are in
Thy sight as one day." There was a spread of panic through Christendom
as the year 1000 CE approached. This was a bit redundant, though, as daily life was already severely difficult and life expectancy short.
The world was a radically different place as the year 2000 approached.
More people were literate, affluent, and intellectually (as well as
emotionally) involved with their religions. Much of the faith of the
Middle Ages had yielded to science and rationalism, but true faith
will never totally go away. This was demonstrated by the hundreds of
thousands globally who feared that the year 2000 marked the biblical
end, as well as the end of global technology with the impending
millennium-bug. There were several consenting voices that arose to set
the record straight; among them, Anomalist/Scientific Investigator
Christopher Chacon. A researcher/investigator with the Office of
Scientific Investigation and Research, he and several other scientists
with the organization, dismissed these end-of-world concerns. “We have
found no evidence to support that any type of global cataclysmic event
would take place in 2000”, stated Chacon in a 1995 interview.
If your faith is of the conviction that the Messiah has not yet
arrived, then pre-millenialism describes the thousand years of waiting
required for the Messiah's appearance. If in a faith that maintains
the Messiah has already appeared, then post-millenialism describes the
belief. Once the End Times begin, believers anticipate one thousand
years of preparatory peace before the final destruction of this earth
and the creation of the new improved blissful world to come.
The End Times, proper, are graphically laid out in the Book of
Revelations. To update these events and bring them into the present
day, LaHaye and Jenkins have written the Left Behind series of novels.
Basically, using the Book of Revelations as the skeleton plot, they
have meticulously visualized the events in Revelations as they might
happen in the here and now of the late twentieth century. You may not
agree with their representations of the Beast, of 666, of the Anti-
Christ, the plagues, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Whore of
Babylon, or the Seals, but the novels are an entertaining, engaging and
blow by blow view of the End Times. If you never buy their books but
sit down and read the Book of Revelations, LaHaye and Jenkins probably
won't be too displeased.
A spiritual end of the Christian world includes a personal judgment by
God, and the promise of a reward in Heaven. This appears in the Qur'an
for Muslims, also.
The Judaic world is still resolutely awaiting the first and only
coming of its Messiah. There is a complicated list of required signs
to herald the End Times, and several Christian fundamentalist groups
are cooperating and actively working to bring these things about, to
ease the arrival of the Messiah. One requirement is the building of the
Third Temple in Jerusalem, and this requires a specifically marked red
heifer for sacrifice and temple consecration. Indeed, a cattle breeder
in O'Neill Nebraska has been sending red heifers to Israel in hopes that a successful breeding program is underway.
Interpreting the End: The Classical Ends of the World OR A Social,
Political, Economic End of the Modern World:
The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats:
"...things fall apart
the center can not hold...."
China is one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, and the Chinese
have weathered more than their share of disasters. The Mongolian
invasion of 1253 AD by Kublai Khan is only one. If China does not have
a legend or tradition of the end of the world, they do have a full-
blown after world, or hell that is complete with ghosts, demons, and
bureaucrats that snugly parallel those in the living world.
The civilization of Ancient Egypt may not be alive in the same sense
as China, but it is still sending ripples into our modern world.
Egyptologist John Baines of the University of Oxford has interpreted
passages in the Coffin Texts to indicate a belief that one day the
gods will depart and when only Ptah and Osiris remain, the world will
In general, though, the ancient Egyptians believed in a more stable
eternity. Human life might be short, but human dwelling in the Duat
after death was very long. Temples and tombs were built of stone
and intended to last for eternity but even the palaces of the kings
were built of mud brick.
Amazingly, even the mortuary temple of
Amenhotep III was built on a Nile flood plain so that the river might
inundate the floors of the structure, something that the architects
and engineers surely knew would doom the building in a very few
centuries. Amenhotep III was the "Sun King" in the 1400s BC of the New
Kingdom,when ancient Egypt's empire was largest.
Also in Asia, in India, the Hindu sacred book
earthly existence and civilization in terms
final being the Kali Yuga, that began around
the shortest yuga and when it ends, so does
eventually begin a new cycle.
In the 600s AD, the Mayans of Central America were accomplished
astronomers and built numerous temples, each with their own specific
stone calendars. Mayan tradition allowed for five full cycles
(sometimes called 'suns'). The fifth and present sun began in 3114 BC,
which loosely resonates with the beginning of the Kali yuga.
The Mayan calendar is complicated and not even the experts agree.
Surya Siddhanta describes
of cycles or yugas, the
3100 BC. The Kali Yuga is
this world, presumably to the exact end date of the fifth sun. (This is not too different from
the debate among modern Western tropical astrologers of exactly when
the Age of Pisces ends and the Age of Aquarius begins.) There is no
debate, though, about the date of the Winter Solstice 2012, which
is December 21. John Major Jenkins (a dedicated independent Mayan
researcher and educator) in his book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, brings
home the significance of this. In the year 2012 when the Sun enters
the sign Capricorn and reaches the southernmost point of the ecliptic,
it also conjuncts the Galactic Center. The Mayans attributed great
importance to the Milky Way, our home galaxy. The artist and Mayan
scholar Jose Arguelles also attached great significance to the Milky
Way in Mayan lore. According to NASA, the link between the Mayan
calendar and the end of the world started with claims that Nibiru, a
supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, was headed toward Earth.
The catastrophe was originally predicted to take place in May of 2003,
but when that did not occur, it was then associated with the end of the
Mayan calendar by New Age prognosticators. In contrast to scientists at
NASA, Professor Kahmra Malley of Rutgers University asserts that the
Mayans did indeed predict the “end of world” long before the Nibiru
claims. In a 2012 interview with Weekly World News, Professor Malley
clearly stated that the Mayans had predicted the end. “They knew how
long the world would last and they were extremely confident about the
apocalypse”, states Malley.
Throughout history, for each and every prophecy interpretation of
a pending “doomsday”, there are thousands who take each impending
end of world predictions quite seriously. For example, the French
government is presently concerned about possible mass-suicides that
could take place with a “doomsday commune” of some 20,000 located at
the base of Pic de Bugarach in southern France. The cult commune and
picturesque mountain, rumored to be associated with everything from
alien visitation to ancient supernatural rituals, has been the focus of
several recent news reports because of apocalyptic beliefs surrounding
the December 21, 2012 date.
In the 1995 interview with Chacon, he also responded to questions
regarding the Mayan calendar and the “end of time” claims. Chacon
stated, “In addition to the traditional archaeological/anthropological
sources, we have had unprecedented access to “other sources/materials”,
not available to mainstream academia or the general public -- some
extremely obscure and others newly discovered. While the research
yielded compelling new insights, and also taking into account thousands
of other variables, including scientific and archaeological, we have
concluded that there is no evidence to support any type of global
cataclysm will take place on December 21st, 2012.” While the world may
not in-fact end, numerous natural disasters are still being anticipated
by other prognosticators for December 21, 2012. Jose Arguelles, Daniel
Pinchbeck, and Carl Calleman all seem to think that what will end is
some old way of thinking or consciousness, to be replaced with a new
more enlightened global and cosmic consciousness. Rather than dwelling on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes or blizzards,
most Mayan experts are counting down to the end of the current mindset
that dominates the world. The experts look forward to some fresh new
It might be worth pointing out that, in most astrology systems, the
energy of a conjunction (such as our winter solstice Sun conjuncting
the Galactic Center) is strongest as the conjunction perfects, or
becomes exact. The most crucial time is immediately before the exact
conjunction. Astrologically, the crucial time is not December 21, 2012
proper, but the years and months immediately before that date. This
has been happening for the last few years, and this conjunction is
slowly perfecting right now. Perhaps a slow-going end of the world is
happening before our eyes.
These classical cultures also share the phenomenon or legend of
the coming and going of an avatar, a great leader who organizes,
saves, then ultimately leaves his people behind. China still reveres
The Yellow Emperor who united and first ruled the Middle Kingdom.
Ancient Egypt revered the god Osiris, whose son Horus the falcon-headed sun god was also the embodiment of every king of the Two
Lands. The most noteworthy of Mayan kings was Pacal (the Shield),
sometimes called Pacal Votan, who lived 603-683 CE and whose tomb
was discovered in 1948. We can also include the Inca civilization's
avatar and god Viracocha, and the Aztec avatar and god Quetzalcoatl
(who, for better or worse, the last Aztec king Montezuma thought was
embodied in the Spanish conquistador Hernandez Cortez). With the
departure of a people's avatar, the civilization ended, be it slowly or
Looking around the world today, there seems to be a dearth of avatars
and a plethora of potentially catastrophic problems. Politically,
the countries of Europe seem to still be coping with a paradigm
change that began with the French Revolution of 1789. China seems to
still be feeling its way into the twenty-first century, after having
been dragged into the twentieth century by the strong wills of men
such as Sun Yatsen, Chiang Kaishek, and Mao Zedong. Most of Africa
and Asia are struggling with ways to reconcile tribal governments,
economies, and religious traditions with the rest of the modern world.
The Islamic countries are in the midst of political and economic
upheaval, while trying to preserve the best elements of their historic
and religious past. The unprecedented and burgeoning Arab Spring, as
well as the Occupy movements across the countries of Europe, reveal a
change of mind and heart that can uproot many stagnant principles and
institutions of the past.
The atom was split in the 1940s and nuclear weapons and power plants
have proliferated but we have yet to destroy ourselves with them.
Jonathan Schell, who wrote the germinal book Fate of the Earth at the
end of the Cold War, has gone on to write The Seventh Decade, almost apologetically explaining why we are still here and may remain for a
In converse to world destruction, one could also postulate that the
recent U.S. election could be interpreted as another clear example
of monumental global renewal and social transformation taking place
around the world. An exponentially growing population of people sharing
a new type of progressive, alternative thinking that could arguably
be a positive sign of mankind’s evolution into something greater. In
this regard, the “end of the world” or “end of time” term would still
be applicable, but its meaning better interpreted as a type of re-
set on human nature. If ever a world were in the heart of some grand
transformation of identity and belief, it's our world now.
The Physical End of Planet Earth:
The Hollow Men T. S. Eliot:
"This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper."
Name your poison. The evening news, and popular literature and
entertainment, is full of possible horrors as well as live coverage of
real disasters. The South Asia tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, the Japan
earthquake of 2011 and of course the freak monster-storm Sandy are
fresh and raw memories in the minds of the viewing public as well as
in the daily lives of the millions who survived the end of their local
personal world. Huge earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and
hurricanes and typhoons are all natural disasters that have occurred
countless times in the geologic record. Never before, though has the
population of the world been seven billion, with most of these people
living in cities along coastlines or low-lying areas.
Global warming may or may not be produced and aggravated by our post-
industrial revolution civilization. What matters is that climates have
changed in the past, and it will happen again, with or without our
help. Scientists and politicians (who control huge funds that sometimes
scientists compete for) can argue about some impending ice age, or non-
reversible greenhouse effect, but it will matter little to the millions
of people living in areas where sea levels are changing or Category
Five hurricanes strike.
The Earth's magnetic field has reversed polarity many times in the
geologic past. This discovery revolutionized the science of geology
and pioneered the widespread acceptance of continental drift and plate
tectonics. Yes, the continents drift, too. It's also possible that the
rotational poles of the Earth have flipped. With continental drift to complicate archaic maps of the Earth, it's hard to eliminate this
possibility. Any of these Earth changes would radically affect if not
end our modern civilization, so dependent on modern technology. A
massive blast from a solar flare, powerful enough to rip off or damage
our protective Van Allen belts, would wreak the same havoc.
In our cozy corner of the Solar System, an ongoing program scans the
sky for near-Earth asteroids that might strike the Earth with fatal
consequences. This happened more often in the earlier days of the
Earth, and there are huge ghost craters on the continental shields of
Canada and Australia as testament to this. Only now are scientists
beginning to explore the coastlines and ocean floors for telltale
signs of prehistoric asteroid or cometary strikes, any one of which
having sufficient power to end whatever civilization existed, if not to
threaten the extinction of whatever life was prominent on the Earth.
For example, 65 million years ago an asteroid, huge meteor or comet did
strike the Yucatan peninsula, initiating a global disaster that ended
the Mesozoic era and the reign of the dinosaurs, a species that had
thrived for tens of millions of years.
More mysteriously and much more recently, on June 30, 1908 something
fell from the sky onto the tundra of Tunguska in Siberia, destroying
forests, starting massive fires, and sending an atmospheric pressure
wave that registered on barometers around the world. Was it a meteor? A
comet? A tiny black hole? No remnant has ever been found, so we still
don't know what kind of cosmic bullet the Earth dodged that day.
If a neighboring star in our Milky Way were to explode and become a
supernova, the Earth and entire Solar System would be unable to weather
the cosmic storm. Before the light reached us, the gamma ray burst from
the explosion would pummel the facing side of the Earth with enough
energy to destroy all life on the surface. There is concern, in fact,
that the star Betelgeuse, aka Alpha Orionis, might be the most likely
red supergiant star in our sky that could blow up in our global face.
Farther afield in deep space, astronomers witness worlds ending every
day. It's hard to tell sometimes from reading the science news articles
how long ago those worlds ended, but with the Hubble telescope, with
the Spitzer telescope, and with the Kepler telescope, astronomers are
recording the death of stars as they explode and become supernovas.
Astronomers also are observing X-ray bursts that may be attributed to
large bodies being sucked into black holes. This makes for exciting
science news reporting, but it's not too compelling on the evening
"Mother, Mother, I feel sick.
Send for the doctor, quick quick quick.
Doctor, Doctor, shall I die?
Yes, my darling, by and by."
There are certainly more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of
in all our philosophies. Also certain (although the ancient Egyptians
might not have agreed), that which has a beginning will eventually have
an end. Newtonian and modern physics still agree that entropy exists
and that the universe at large will eventually wind down, and even time
Will the End of the World happen on December 21st, 2012? It's as good or
bad a year as any. Take it personally or universally, take the short-
term view or the long term, and you'll get a different answer. Is the
Earth (and the Universe) a uniformitarian or catastrophic system? Will
the End be slow and gradual, or instantaneous? Science will never
give us all the answers. Neither will the experts of faith, despite
the pragmatic instance and certainty of many. Perhaps the two teams
together, though, can give us a glimmer of a better understanding of
ourselves, and even of our end.
Books for further reading:
Awakening Osiris, Normandi Ellis, 1988
The Mind of Egypt, Jan Assmann, 2003
Egypt's Sun King: Amenhotep III, Joann Fletcher, 2000
The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, Jose Arguelles, 1987
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, John Major Jenkins, 1998
Galactic Alignment, John Major Jenkins, 2002
The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, Carl John
2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Steven Pinchbeck, 2006
The Bible, King James Version
Left Behind, LaHaye and Jenkins, 2001
Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End,
Lawrence Joseph, 2008
"Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options," Lonnie G. Thompson, The Behavior Analyst, 2010, #33, p 153-170
The Fate of the Earth, Johnathan Schell, 1982
The Seventh Decade: the New Shape of Nuclear Danger, Johnathan Schell,
Originally posted: 2012-DEC-18
Latest update: 2012-DEC-18
Author: Kathy Watts