Where have we hear or seen this before? Thousands head for where, so the prophecy says, the Mother Ship will arrive to take them to the Place we were intended for. Depending on when you grew up, the answer is either:
A mountain looming over a French commune with a population of just 200 is being touted as a modern Noah’s Ark when doomsday arrives – supposedly less than nine months from now.
For decades, there has been a belief that Pic de Bugarach, which, at 1,230 metres, is the highest in the Corbières mountain range, possesses an eery power. Often called the “upside-down mountain” – geologists think that it exploded after its formation and the top landed the wrong way up – it is thought to have inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since the 1960s, it has attracted New Agers, who insist that it emits special magnetic waves.
Further, rumours persist that the country’s late president François Mitterrand was transported by helicopter on to the peak, while the Nazis, and, later, Israel’s Mossad, performed mysterious digs there. Now the nearby village is awash with New Agers, who have boosted the local economy, though their naked group climbs up to the peak have raised concerns as well as eyebrows. Among other oddities, some hikers have been spotted scaling the mountain carrying a ball with a golden ring, strung together by a single thread.
A grizzled man wearing a white linen smock, who calls himself Jean, set up a yurt in the forest a couple of years ago to prepare for the earth’s demise. “The apocalypse we believe in is the end of a certain world and the beginning of another,” he offers. “A new spiritual world. The year 2012 is the end of a cycle of suffering. Bugarach is one of the major chakras of the earth, a place devoted to welcoming the energies of tomorrow.”
Yes, the generation that is too sophisticated to believe in Jesus, Moses or the Buddha has no problem waiting for the arrival of Xenu. Just exactly why that is has been the subject of a number of books all of which try to answer one question: why is belief — of some kind at least — resurgent in the modern world.
One possible reason is the rediscovery of the existence of information in the popular mind. The second is the decline in the only world religion the West has ever invented, Marxism, into a degenerate folk variant.
The 20th century image of technology was the big steam engine with its great gears and turning wheels, a picture Marxism exploited by explaining the world in terms of “materialism”. People were complicated machines. Humanity was reducible to organic chemistry. But then came the computer revolution and it made information once again a intuitive thing. Modern man was able to conceive of what the ancients called the “spirit” and the “soul” in terms of information theory. Perhaps the best illustration of the culture shift came when Donald Sensing described the resurrection in terms of a hard drive restore, an example which mid-20th century men would imagine as preposterous, but which men in 2000 would see as perfectly natural.
Every computer user knows that the hard drive of a computer is liable to fail without warning, to die, in other words. (In fact, that’s how we put it when some mechanical device fails. “My car died,” we say.) So computer users back up the data on the hard drive, say onto magnetic tape. If you have a current backup, your hard drive’s death causes only temporary distress. You can take the dead hard drive out and smash it to pieces with a hammer if you want. You install a new hard drive and restore the data off the backup tape onto it. Nothing is lost. All the information is restored perfectly. The new hard drive is indistinguishable from the old one. No one can tell the difference between the old one and the new one.
God remembers us perfectly. And God will perfectly restore every “backed up” detail of who we are into our resurrected bodies in the age to come.
Whether this will actually happen or not depends on whether you believe in the Resurrection. But given the premises, almost any early 21st century man would find the idea entirely plausible. There is nothing hokey or magical about it. The fundamental nature of information lay at the basis of the Voyager Golden Record, an artifact attached to the first probe NASA sent beyond the bounds of the Solar System.
In the upper left-hand corner is an easily recognized drawing of the phonograph record and the stylus carried with it. The stylus is in the correct position to play the record from the beginning. Written around it in binary arithmetic is the correct time of one rotation of the record, 3.6 seconds, expressed in time units of 0.70 billionths of a second, the time period associated with a fundamental transition of the hydrogen atom. The drawing indicates that the record should be played from the outside in. Below this drawing is a side view of the record and stylus, with a binary number giving the time to play one side of the record – about an hour.
The information in the upper right-hand portion of the cover is designed to show how pictures are to be constructed from the recorded signals. The top drawing shows the typical signal that occurs at the start of a picture. The picture is made from this signal, which traces the picture as a series of vertical lines, similar to ordinary television (in which the picture is a series of horizontal lines). Picture lines 1, 2 and 3 are noted in binary numbers, and the duration of one of the “picture lines,” about 8 milliseconds, is noted. The drawing immediately below shows how these lines are to be drawn vertically, with staggered “interlace” to give the correct picture rendition. Immediately below this is a drawing of an entire picture raster, showing that there are 512 vertical lines in a complete picture. Immediately below this is a replica of the first picture on the record to permit the recipients to verify that they are decoding the signals correctly. A circle was used in this picture to ensure that the recipients use the correct ratio of horizontal to vertical height in picture reconstruction.
The fundamental assumption of the Golden Record is that any alien race which finds it shares with us a common dictionary. Things such as the knowledge of the hydrogen atom’s properties or mathematics are believed to be items to which we can mutually refer. In other words, the Golden Record — or tonal communication with aliens in Close Encounters — relies on the ability to consult a mutual book written for all the species of the universe yet authored by none of them.
This new familiarity with information, which grows rather than diminishes with each new generation — see how easily the kids grasp it — has come at a time when humanity has lost confidence in Paradises on Earth. It may come as a shock to many, but in the 1930s the Left’s idea of an “advanced society” was the Soviet industrial ant-hive of Magnitogorsk. American Marxists actually made work-pilgrimages to Stalin’s steeltown in order to experience the future. Today it is one of the most contaminated spots on the planet.
For example, John Scott, “the son of conservationist and peace activist Scott Nearing and Nellie Marguerite Seeds Nearing” wrote “wrote Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia’s City of Steel about his experiences in Magnitogorsk, presenting the Stalinist enterprise of building a huge steel producing plant and city as an awe-inspiring triumph of collectivism.”
But giant steel mills in on the border of Siberia no longer fire the imagination of even Western man. In some ways environmentalism and its goddess Gaia can be seen as a politically correct way of giving the masses back their deities without going all the way to Christianity, Judaisim, Buddhism or Islam. It’s a politically correct way of letting the average man let of his religious steam without admitting it. Who knows if the hippies will find the Mother Ship on their French mountaintop? What seems more certain is that Augustine understood man better than Marx. “My heart shall never rest,” Augustine wrote, “until it rests in Thee.”