Mayan prophecies: Life after the (non) end of the world
Author: John Kelly, BBC News Magazine, 20th Dec 2012
Date Feb 28 2015
The article brings to light an important topic in humanity’s history that is society’s compelling interest and ongoing fascination with the idea of the apocalypse and the end of the world. Such engrossment is evident within mainstream popular culture such as the presence of highly grossing films (Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow), movies that focus on the concept of cataclysm. Such movies were successful on an international level. Since the beginning of time, mankind has been plagued with an endless assumption that the end of the world is imminent. Across history, one can witness various instances within a variety of different religious movements that demonstrates similar thoughts regarding the forthcoming end of times. The Romans panicked at predictions their city would be destroyed in 636 BC, Europe was gripped with fear ahead of 1000 AD, the Fifth Monarchists’ assumption that the end was near, the Millerites’ apocalyptic forecast in 1844, followers of Nostradamus expectation of the “king of Terror” in 1999, Pat Robertson’s anticipation that a nuclear attack will happen in late 2007 and California preacher’s (Harold Camping) end of the world set date of October 22, 2011; all of which never came to fruition. The author discusses the consequence of the failed apocalypse on people. The theoretical aftermath would be that such individuals would experience a deeply traumatic effect that would impact their future belief system in a negative way.
In actuality, Lorne Dawson, an expert in sociology of religion found that the majority of believers positively recover from such defeat and are able to lead normal lives with a continued interest in their faiths. In fact, some religious movements prosper in the aftermath of such disappointment. For instance, the flourishing of Jehovah’s Witnesses that comprises today seven million adherents and the 17 million members of The Seventh Day Adventists, a religious sect that grew out of the Millerites following the Great Disappointment in 1844. In the 1956 text “when prophecy fails” written by psychologist Leon Festinger, the author demonstrates the concept of cognitive dissonance that was used by UFO believers as a defense mechanism in dealing with a failed prediction. More often than not, believers tend to resort to a secondary reasoning in an attempt to explain the alternative turn of events. In doing so, members continue to have faith in their religion and manage to recover from any setback. Similarly, Simon Dein, a psychiatrist, observed that the Lubavitchers (Hassidic Jews) did not give up on their religious belief after the unexpected death of their messiah “Menachem Mendel Scheneerson”. Instead, after a brief period of grief and confusion, two possible explanations surfaced within the community in an attempt to explain this unusual event. One school of thought believed that their spiritual leader was in fact still alive but invisible to the naked eye while another group of individuals believed that he would one day rise from the dead.
The key ingredients to withstanding a failed apocalyptic event rests on the presence of a cohesive community that is free of schism as well as the existence of a swift rationalization in the aftermath of the incident in order to withstand outside ridicule. Justification takes many forms. One possibility would be to apologize to members for a scheduling error and to suggest a new and revised date. Another option would be to modify the viewpoint of the unexpected turn of events to match the initial prediction of the anticipated event. Most religious movements deal with such a circumstance in a harmonious manner in an effort to salvage their prior religious investment.
In the movie “The Midnight Cry: William Miller and The End of The World” directed by T.N. Mohan, the Millerites movement is discussed in great lengths alongside the Great Disappointment phenomenon that followed the failure of the prophecy of the second coming of the Christ. The Millerites movement is considered by many to be a one of a kind highly influential religious, social and political movement to date. It was a widespread operation that affected a large number of individuals in North America and Europe. William Miller, the leader of such movement was a highly respected Baptist lay preacher who in 1833, publically shared his belief in the coming second advent of Jesus Christ in approximately the year 1843. The Great Disappointment was a significant event in the history of the Millerite movement and refers to the failed appearance of Jesus Christ, an occurrence that contradicted William Miller’s prediction. Millerites leaders and followers were left bewildered and disillusioned. The Millerites had to deal with their own shattered expectations as well as criticism from the public. Subsequently however, Millerites did not turn against their leader. Instead, an accommodation occurred post failure of the prophecy. At the time, the conceived explanation regarding the failed prophecy rested on the fact that Jews must return to Palestine before the coming of Christ.
This led to a social and political change. In the late 1850, Jewish people were encouraged and assisted by European political entities to return to Jerusalem. Year later, the state of Israel was established in 1948. The realization of such criteria validated the Bible’s prophecy to many.
The Great Disappointment is of interest to many scholars due to its psychological significance. It is viewed by many academics to be an example of the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance and true-‐believer syndrome. This entails the formation of new beliefs and persuasion techniques in order to lessen the tension (dissonance) that results from failed prophecies.In reality, the continued notion that the end of the world exists rests on humanity’s conviction that a better era is to be expected when the end of the world arrives. There is a global assumption that the grass is greener on the other side.