Damian Thompson. The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millenium. Sinclair Stevenson, 1996.
This is on important and timely study, tracing the development of the millennial theme from its Biblical roots to contemporary manifestations, Thompson suggests that millenialism grows in times of stress and uncertainly, when old ways of life ore changing, Thus Biblical apocalyptic dates from times of military occupation and cultural imperialism. The impact of Hellenic end Romano-Hellenic cultures in Israel can perhaps be paralleled by the impact of modern Western culture in parts of the Third World today, though the impact can be liberating it can also be shattering, Restoration movements arise led by charismatic figures, and thaumaturgical, post-colonial leaders who promise supernatural intervention which will sweep aside the corrupt and evil occupiers end restore the people to at least freedom, and perhaps world dominion.
It was in such on atmosphere that the Revelation of St John emerged, and Thompson concludes that it was one of the most profound cultural influences on the whole history and intellectual development of Western Europe.
Thompson discusses the question of whether apocalyptic fears were rampant in AD1000. He concludes that they were probably not a strong as in current popular belief. but more than modern revisionist historians have conceded, He then follows the paths of the millennium movements in the middle ages, including the social movement surrounding the English revolution. He sees millenial belief driving such modern secular religions as The Triumph of Progress, Marx's Classless Society or Hitler's Thousand Year Reich.
It is Part 2 of this book which Magonia readers are likely to find most interesting, Thompson's account of contemporary PMT - Pre-Millenium Tension - where he discusses millennial beliefs of conservative evangelists, along with the 'Toronto Blessing'. Other topics he analyses include fringe Marian groups centred around rumours of the Third Prophecy of Fatima, millennial movements in Korea and the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan.
I think we must conclude that although much at the belief survey by Thompson in this book is crazy, scary, and often bigoted and embittered. the absence of all belief in the possible transformation of self and society would be scarier still. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 58, January 1997.