Seeking a Friend for the End of the World stands as one of the most creative scripts produced in 2012. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley play an odd couple united on a quest to reconnect with their respective pasts before a meteor destroys all life on Earth. Dramatically deviating from the clichés of the disaster genre, Seeking a Friend presents a doomed humanity that takes the apocalypse fairly well. While including requisite scenes of panic and riot, the film’s characters strive toward some sense of relationship in their final days.
We too seem to be taking the apocalypse pretty well. Our world hurls toward its scheduled end on December 21st according to predictions based on the ancient Mayan calendar. It’s something folks like Art Bell, George Noory, and their overnight talk radio guests have been warning us about for years. It serves as the subject of several books, a keyword of countless websites, the inspiration for a variety of B movies, and the premise behind Roland Emmerich’s consummate disaster film titled simply 2012. After years of hype, the date approaches. Yet there is a conspicuous lack of panic.
The smart money bets on the continued survival of both humanity and our planet. As my friend and PJ Media colleague Sunny Lohmann recently quipped on Twin Cities News Talk, the only thing sure to come beyond the winter solstice is more daylight. Predictions of Armageddon have an impressive failure rate.
Be that as it may, we should not completely dismiss the potential for a kind of apocalypse. No, I don’t mean the fiscal cliff, Obama’s second term, or an imminent economic meltdown. I’m talking about an apocalypse of the kind which has come many times before, a moment in history when a culture unravels under a development so overwhelming that established institutions pass into ruin. Think of the Aztecs and their encounter with Spanish conquistadors. They scurried about, minding their own business, when the white man arrived to unmake their world.
At a moment like that, two things happen. Newly introduced technology bowls over indigenous methods, and a new way of thinking transmits through that technical superiority. That kind of apocalypse, one which reforms our world and thus destroys our way of life, looms not only possible, but anticipated.
As we close out 2012, the stage lays set for a global revolution driven in part by the New Age occult. Continuity exists between the ancient mystery religions of civilizations like the Mayans and the esoteric societies of today. Could it be that, as Aztec priests once wowed worshipers with hidden knowledge of astronomical phenomena like an eclipse of the sun, modern wizards of the rhetorical arts are poised to win converts to a New Thought? Many practitioners of New Age occultism believe the winter solstice of 2012 will herald an apocalyptic shift in global consciousness which will fundamentally transform human society. Far from catastrophe, the New Age regards this change as a leap forward in human development, what they term “conscious evolution.”
As we consider such notions, concede that when it comes to analyzing cultural and political trends it matters not whether strange beliefs prove true. It matters what people’s beliefs will drive them to do. With that in mind as we reference spirituality, nevermind whether you believe. The beliefs of others inform their behavior, and behavior has an objective effect in any case.
Understanding what some among the New Age expect and how their beliefs could reverberate with the culture requires an overview of eschatology. That is the branch of theology dealing with the end of history. One of the fascinating aspects of the various eschatological beliefs held by different communities throughout the world is a similarity in expectation. The world exists with flaws. Something or someone approaches to fix it. The faithful anticipate a happily ever after while dissenters may expect exile into outer darkness.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs to a sect of Islam which believes infidels stain the world, a Mahdi shall come as savior, and the global domination of Islam spells salvation. Christianity teaches that the world exists in a state of sin, that Jesus came to Earth as the incarnation of God to atone for mankind on the cross, and that heaven awaits those who repent of their sin and place their faith in the risen Christ. Some New Age thinkers predict the coming of their own Christ figure, Maitreya the World Teacher, who will “inspire humanity to see itself as one family, and create a civilization based on sharing, economic and social justice, and global cooperation.” (That last bit sounds awfully familiar, does it not?)
Despite their broad thematic similarities, these three eschatological views conflict. The Mahdi cannot be Jesus according to either Islam or Christianity, and neither the Mahdi nor Jesus fit the description of Maitreya. However, those among the New Age who anticipate Maitreya view the figure as the messiah which those major religions are looking for.
As absurd as the coming of Maitreya the World Teacher might sound, his anticipated curriculum sobers any ridicule. Consider a 2010 documentary film by João Amorim called 2012: Time for Change, which “follows journalist Daniel Pinchbeck, author of the bestselling 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, on a quest for a new paradigm that integrates the archaic wisdom of tribal cultures with the scientific method.” The film’s synopsis identifies its revolutionary goal:
As conscious agents of evolution, we can redesign post-industrial society on ecological principles to make a world that works for all. Rather than breakdown and barbarism, 2012 heralds the birth of a regenerative planetary culture where collaboration replaces competition, where exploration of psyche and spirit becomes the new cutting edge, replacing the sterile materialism that has pushed our world to the brink.
Here spiritual language describes an inherently political goal, which is why it may remind readers of rhetoric common to the political Left. What are social engineers if not “conscious agents of evolution”? What is the object of the green movement if not a “post-industrial society”? You can be sure “a regenerative planetary culture where collaboration replaces competition” for the supposed benefit of “all” will not include capitalism and its requisite political freedom. The film pines for a global communitarian state, a green slavery rationalized through the false gospel of an ecological theocracy. The worst part is, our globalized culture sits primed for it.
While his image has tarnished a bit since his first term began, President Barack Obama stands as a prototype for the expected Maitreya. As he toured the nation in 2009 to promote his vaunted healthcare law, the president filled venues like the Target Center in Minneapolis with congregations of expectant disciples. There he preached not unlike Pinchbeck, calling for fundamental transformation and that particular form of “collaboration” which occurs at the point of a gun. The messianic overtones of the Obama brand endure, recently affirmed by actor Jamie Foxx’s enraptured exhalation of “our lord and savior Barack Obama.”
Popular culture has greased the revolutionary wheels as well. Star Trek, a science fiction fantasy portraying a collaborative future for humanity where peace is taken for granted, serves as a prominent and enduring example. Trek portrays New Age communitarian nirvana, a society without money where members simply cooperate toward the common good. Of course, no Trek writer has dared to attempt an explanation of just how such a society might work or how our present might transmute into that future. The frontier adventures of Trek occur in a space more like our own with “disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” Trek’s utopia remains back home on Earth, which is probably why so few scenes take place there.
In our century, the viral internet film Zeitgeist (the latest version of which is titled Zeitgeist: Moving Forward – there’s that thematic linkage with the Left again) swings an axe at established religious, political, and economic institutions and aspires toward a Trek-like future “of such abundance [through technology] that everything would be available without a price tag, and without submission to employment.” Those are the words of Jacque Fresco, founder of the Venus Project, a utopian think tank that blames all the world’s problems on private property and the use of money.
Were he an anomaly, an eccentric like Fresco could be ignored. However, his rhetoric resonates with the mainstream in leftist political thought. Channeling the spirit of avowed communist agitators with direct links to the Obama administration like Van Jones, Anita Dunn, Richard Cloward, and Frances Fox Piven, Fresco advocates undermining the system as a prerequisite to a new order.
“The [current] system has to fail, and the people have to lose confidence in their elected leaders,” Fresco says in Zeitgeist. The film’s narrator puts it another way. “We have to alter our behavior to force the power structure to the will of the people…”
“When we understand that it is technology, devised by human ingenuity, which frees humanity and increases our quality of life, we then realize that the most important focus we can have is on the intelligent management of the earth’s resources…” Nevermind who might do the managing. Just realize that if you happen to be a Christian, a classical liberal, or a tea partier, it won’t be you. Fresco declares, “If you give everybody a right to their own opinion, it becomes damaging.” Some animals would have to be more equal than others.
Here take note. It matters not whether the anticipated Maitreya will actually come, or whether New Age spirituality has any basis in reality, or whether Jacque Fresco is a fringe nutter. These beliefs may inform the behavior of the political Left and coalesce into a broad global movement away from individual rights which proves even more profound than the current trend. The mythology of 2012 and its anticipated shift in consciousness provides an ideal pivot point for repackaging discredited ideas in an esoteric and therefore attractive new package. By appealing to people’s spiritual hunger for transcendent meaning, the notion of conscious evolution could be used to rationalize both radical departures from established norms and the sanctioned persecution of those opposed to a brave new world.
While sudden global catastrophe is no more likely on December 21st than any other day, take the proposition of a cultural apocalypse very seriously. Moral authority remains a powerful thing, and a people who believe that your claim to individual rights hinders their conscious evolution will tread you under with glee.
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