Doomsday - Kayoing Doom
by Saurabh Bhattacharya
D-DAYSSome popular ends of the world:
666: Year of the Dead
1000: Popular belief, fuelled by apocalyptic preachers
1003: The year of Christ's
Barely BornAccording to the evolution timeline below, taken from Roger Lewin's Thread of Life: The Smithsonian Looks at Evolution, humanity has barely been born on this planet and has millions of years more to
First the bad news.
By prophetic consent, this millennium portends doom for the world.
Now the good news. Forget about paying off debts, postpone confessing
to your latest sin, break your New Year promises. Why give a hoot to a
world that's going to end anyway? As the bedraggled D-day
monger at the street corner puts it: "Rejoice, for the end of the world
is nigh!" But is it? Can you really visualize good old earth coming to
an ominous full stop?
The 16th century seer Nostradamus could and his prophecies have led to a flurry of doomsday predictions. In quatrain 74, he predicted the rise of the Antichrist in July 1999, or a being darkly similar, followed by a period of bloody wars that will decimate the earth. Though the Antichrist is related to a religious view, there are other doomsday possibilities that are, according to die-hard D-day watchers, more rooted in reality. But where does prediction stop and hysteria begin?
Massive natural upheavals—earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts—are the mainstay of most D-day prophets. Apart from Nostradamus, most of whose quatrains revel in nature's cataclysms, the bulk of prophecies predicting natural disasters stem from the Sleeping Prophet Edgar Cayce and the modern-day seer Gordon Michael Scallion. Scallion hit the bull's eye when he predicted the massive Hurricane Andrew that hit the West Coast of the USA a few years back.
Cayce, who would go into a trance while 'seeing' the future, foretold of unprecedented earthquakes that would decimate New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles by the end of this century. Madame Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society and a famous seer, even prophesied global destruction "as happened to Atlantis... all of England and parts of NW European coast will sink into the sea..."
Prophecies of natural disasters have probably had the strongest factual back up. For hundreds of years, the Los Angeles-San Francisco area has been delicately poised on the world's most potent fault-line—the San Andreas Fault. One small shake and you can say goodbye to Beverly Hills. Says Matthew Bunson in his book Prophecies 2000, "Every year, about half a million earthquakes rattle the earth. The majority of these are barely felt, but when a major quake hits, entire cities and hundreds of thousands of lives may hang in the balance." In the Indian subcontinent alone, the recent earthquakes in the Tehri region and the routine cyclones of Bangladesh are proof of what happens when nature roars.
Granted that the earth is a volatile mess, can it still vindicate D-day panic?
Professor Yash Pal, renowned scientist, defines doomsday as an event in which a major part of life is destroyed. And though the USA might have pretensions of being the world, destruction of San Francisco or Los Angeles won't exactly be the end of Homo Sapiens. Unless, of course, the entire earth becomes a volatile trampoline. But such widespread jumps on the Richter scale on a planet-gone-wild can occur—along with the other paraphernalia of doomsday—only if a kamikaze asteroid chooses earth as its target.
"There is scientific evidence of major extinction every 30-40 million years," Professor Pal explains, "which is hardly surprising when you look at other planets pockmarked with meteor and asteroid hits. In fact, 10-20 meter long asteroids may hit the earth every once in a century. The real trouble, says the professor, will be caused if an asteroid about 6 miles long has a rendezvous with earth. "It will be equivalent to a blast of 100 million tons of TNT. The atom bomb dropped over Hiroshima had only 10 tons of TNT," he explains. One such asteroid, in fact, is believed to have caused the extinction of dinosaurs, leading the way to the evolution of Homo Sapiens. Evidence of this has been found recently in the form of a 106-mile long Yucatan crater in Mexico, which is supposed to be the site of an asteroid impact around 65 million years ago. The asteroid that apparently hit earth then was six miles wide and was traveling at the speed of 9 miles/second. Do we face a fate similar to the mighty reptiles that roamed the earth millennia ago? Not quite.
"We have catalogued most asteroids that are big enough to cause global destruction," says Professor Pal. "We know their tracks and can predict fairly well where they would be at a given time. If we found one heading for us, we could create a small explosion on its surface, or put a sail facing the solar wind to deflect its course."
So, Hollywood flicks such as Deep Impact are only fantasy? "You could say that," the professor says. "Theoretically, you can't rule out perturbations that might divert an asteroid and throw it right at us. But it doesn't seem probable."
Gabriel Jogard, a 19th century seer, predicted 1962 as the year when the Antichrist would be born. Jeane Dixon, known for her accurate prophecies of John Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi's assassinations predicted the exact date—5 February, 1962. Great, but who is he? D-day seers provide identification tips. According to Jewish legend, the Antichrist, named Armilus, would have one eye bigger than the other, would be partially deaf and may walk with a limp. Unattractive, but easy to spot—if you can locate all Armiluses born on 5 February, 1962. The trouble is, he could also be named Mabus or Alus, or their anagrams, as prophesied by Nostradamus. This Antichrist will rise from the Middle East and his first triumph would be over New York, ultimately leading to World War III.
The tradition of the Antichrist is rooted in the Book of Revelations of the New Testament, where Saint John describes the apocalyptic events leading up to Judgment Day: the seven seals of God's Book of Life, the ensuing wrath of God, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the emergence of the Beast and the Antichrist, and finally Armageddon. Many Christians in the 17th century accepted the calculations of James Usher, an Irish archbishop, who estimated the first day of creation to be in 4004 BC. And that the end of the world would occur on 23 October, 1996.
Obviously, his predictions failed. But it did not deter many Christian cosmologists and scholars from trying and putting a precise date on the Day of Judgment. This might have been a harmless scholarly task in itself, had not numerous D-day cults usurped the idea and given it a distinctly destructive spin.
Take the case of the suicidal Heaven's Gate, whose members killed themselves in 1997, believing their souls would hitch on to a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet and thus escape the end of the world. Or the Concerned Christians, whose members were recently thrown out of Israel for planning to bomb holy places there and trigger off the Armageddon. Some of these groups base their doomsday calculation on the following beliefs:
• that God created the world in 4004 BC
• that God's one day equals 1,000 years
• that the world will last for 6,000 years
• that the world will end at or about the year 2000.
Incidentally, the doomsday scare that is raging today is not unique. In Europe, as the year 1000 approached, there was considerable civil unrest, and when the end did not occur on schedule, many even criticized the church. Perhaps in response to this backlash, a series of genocide followed: heretics were targeted for extermination and witches burnt at stake. The situation was bloody, and is warning enough for any rational being today. The Christian tradition of the Antichrist finds an ally in Islam . One of the faith's basic tenets is a belief in D-day or qayamat. Says Delhi-based Islamic scholar Saniyasnain Khan: "We do not try to predict any date for qayamat. Only Allah is aware of that time. At this time, Khan says, "mountains will be razed to the ground, floods shall engulf the planet. All of humanity, including the dead, will be called forth. The good shall go to jannat (heaven) and the evil to jahannum (hell). Earth will be no more". End of story? Perhaps. But, says Khan: "The essence of qayamat is to remind humanity that he alone is responsible for all his actions. We are not waiting for the world to end. We know it will. But till then, Allah wants us to aspire for the good and eschew the evil."
According to the Puranic (ancient Hindu texts) tradition, the climax of kaliyuga will witness the emergence of the tenth incarnation of Vishnu (one of the trinity that rules the Hindu pantheon of gods): Kalki, the ruthless decimator of evil. The Puranas describe this incarnation as riding in the sky on a white horse, sword unsheathed, and marauding through all that is evil in this age. Following this bloodbath, satyuga (age of truth) will return in all its pristine glory. Incidentally, a Kalki movement has already sprung up in South India, and its leader, Bhagavan Sri Kalki, is considered by his followers as the promised tenth incarnation. However, this sect has desisted from any rabid D-day prophecies, concentrating more on ushering in satyuga through a spiritual transformation. But this does not discount other D-day prophets in Hinduism. According to Dr Jayant Athavale, founder of the Mumbai-based Sanatan Bharatiya Sanskriti Sanstha, mankind is destined for a massive evolution shift. "Large scale natural calamities will occur," he says. "Several industries will be closed down. Man's behavior will put even animals to shame."
The Brahma Kumaris, another religious Indian sect, believe that the end of the millennium will see America and part of Europe destroyed by a nuclear bomb. Much of the earth's landmass will be submerged. India will see a civil war. Grain will become inedible and there will be no drinking water. After this would come satyuga with perpetual spring, beardless men and yogic reproduction. And yes, only 900,000 people from the present will survive to see this satyuga.
There are some obvious catches to all predictions that wrestle for a date. For one, the year 2000 is a largely a Christian concept without much significance in either Hinduism or Islam. In strictly mathematical terms, it's not year 2000 but the year 2001 that is the beginning of the new millennium since after 1 BC came 1 AD—without a zero year in between. Historians also claim that Christ was actually born in 4 BC, which would mean that the second millennium was over in 1997. So what's the hullabaloo about?
"The origin of astrology is the same as astronomy," argues Professor Yash Pal. "But human beings have a habit of seeing more than they know. They started correlating what happened in a person's life with planetary positions. Ironically, humans remember only those predictions that come true. Which is why astrology works only for those who believe in it." Comforting words these, considering the plethora of crosses and alignments the planets make it a habit to undergo, which, according to modern day prophets, may bring about global calamities—even the end of life. So much so that this celestial tug-of-war could cause a gravitational pull on the Sun and the Earth, leading to tidal changes, floods, earthquakes, and perhaps the shifting of the planet's axis. And, in a matter of hours, the Alps, Andes, Rockies, and Himalayas may become expensive beachfront property.
Astronomers, however, fail to see any such thing happening. Nor do some astrologers.
"All this talk about dangerous planetary positions is baseless," says Santhanam. "According to Vedic numerology and astrology, there is no question of the world coming to an end this year. The planets never go against nature. If we observe faults in their position then something is wrong with our coordination."
Close on the heels of the stars come the ever-mystical play of numbers. But here, the dark shadow of D-day is a mere wisp. "Everybody said that the world would end in 1999," says Santhanam. "False as that turned out to be, this year was definitely important. The 3 nines add to 9, which is the number of Mars or rebirth. This composition indicates the rebirth of the world." Astrologer Bejan Daruwalla goes a step further. "The 21st century will be the brightest and the boldest period of humanity. This is because the sum of 21 is 3, which is the number of Jupiter, the planet of good luck. In the next 9 years, we'll even contact extra-terrestrials."
A different D-day, however, might await humanity in the next century. It may not be a single day or month, but years of slow poisoning—through toxic wastes, deforestation, siltation, air pollution, oil spills, global warming. . . "We are getting too powerful for our own good," says Professor Pal. "Initially, we were part of nature. Today, we have begun to disturb her. Years back, the river Yamuna could take any dirt and absorb it. Today, it is defeated into a murky drain." All this, when our recorded history is not more than 5,000 years old—a mere speck in the lifetime of Earth.
The lesson, this time, might lie in Atlantis.
When it comes to doomsday visions, nothing equals the story of this fabled continent of super humans, which, thanks to reckless exploitation of nature, one day collapsed into the sea. It was, say New Agers, the curse of hubris, of the assumption that man could conquer nature.
According to Cayce, the great flood mentioned in almost all ancient mythologies is actually the sinking of Atlantis. The memory of that moment of destruction, wrote Linda Goodman, author and psychic, still lies buried in our collective unconscious. And then there is the most human of all D-day threats—a nuclear holocaust.
After the end of the Cold War between the erstwhile Soviet Union and the USA, this threat has shifted to the emergence of smaller nuclear nations. "If all the nuclear powers were to use their weapons, it may not kill every human being," says Professor Pal, "but it will lead to a cloud that will block out the sun and create radioactivity that will last for tens of thousands of years." So, is nuclear war a possibility? Policy analyst B.G. Verghese of the Delhi-based Center for Policy Research is certain that such a situation is far from probable. "Nothing in life can be written off with certitude," he says, "but the probability of a rational human being hitting the nuclear button is extremely minimal. There have been flashpoints in the history of human civilization since World War II where a nuclear war was a breath away. But it did not happen, because man is aware of the mammoth suicidal potential of a nuclear holocaust." In a rational world, apocalypse will be just another word. And, however much our D-day watchers may scream, man's survival instinct will force him to remain as safely rational as possible.
Way back in the 1930s, the philosopher Abd-ru-shin wrote in his book In the Light of Truth: "His (man's) free will lies solely in the decision, of which he may make many every hour. In the independent weaving of the Laws of Creation, however, he is unswervingly subject to the consequences of every one of his personal decisions! Therein lies his responsibility..."
It is this intricate relationship between free will and destiny that we humans need to comprehend and utilize, rather than cry wolf at the drop of a hat. For, ultimately, as journalist Werner Huemer and publisher Micah Rubenstein note in their thought-provoking article 'The Value and Limitations of Prophecies', circulated on the Net, "the true value of prophecies lies in how alert they make one by pointing to possible repercussions. We shall reap what we have sown. When, how and in what form can only be determined through our present actions. It is futile to fall into a state of 'end of the world' panic, since our free will is within the framework of Creation and our future is open.
So, let's hear the good news first. By rational consent, humanity has decided the world is NOT going to end by the turn of the millennium. Now the bad news. Pay off your debts, rush to the nearest confessional, keep all your New Year promises. Frightened? Hey, who said life is fair? Life is, well, just positive!
-with inputs from Suma Varughese
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