By Saurabh Bhattacharya July 1999 Armageddon, Antichrist, nuclear holocaust, polar shifts. Be it a new millennium, planetary alignment or a comet, doomsday prophets have a field day with their end of the world predictions. But is there really any rational basis for such an apocalyptic outlook? D-DAYS Some popular ends of the world:666: Year of the Dead 1000: Popular belief, fuelled by apocalyptic preachers 1003: The year of Christ's Crucifixion 1666: Preachers after the Great London Fire 1992: Popular belief over Halley's comet 1999: Seventh Day Adventists; Jehovah's Witnesses; Nostradamus 2000: Grand Conjunction (May 4); Ice Shift 2001: Edgar Cayce (Axis Shift) 2025: Max Tooth predicts collapse of humanity 6300: Tooth predicts the Grand Climacteric Barely Born According 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 live. LIFE FORMS MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO PERIOD Human 0 Quaternary Mammals arrive 50 Tertiary Dinosaurs flourish 100 Cretaceous Reptiles, pre-bird 150-175 Jurassic Land plant life 200 Triassic Dinosaurs arrive 250 Paleozoic Amphibians 300 Carboniferous First reptiles 300 Carboniferous Sea plants on land 350 Devonian Vertebrate fish 425 Silurian Sea invertebrates 450-500 Ordovician Trilobites, snails 500-575 Cambrian Multicellular 600-650 Precambrian 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 Vi
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