Human history is fraught with examples of mankind reaching a summit, an eclipse, or a sort of end. The term “apocalypse” refers directly to these kinds of circumstances, instances pertaining to a religious or eschatological scenario derived directly from the monotheistic tradition and the plethora of literature expressing the visions of various secular apocalypses; apocalypses that are extremely indicative of the modern human paradigm. I refer to the term “apocalypse” incorporating a similarly broad analogy that attempts to encompass more sociologically holistic phenomena.
The task is one attempting to sculpt a more definitive model of the direct relationship between history and modernity. The hermeneutic pool one dives into when approaching these kinds of topics suggests an exercise submerged in perplexity, yet there are numerous invocations of the term and context of apocalypse that make sense of this historically unprecedented scenario (Hall, 2009). The most forthright examples of the modern (secular) paradigm are:
- 2012 phenomenon– eschatological beliefs incorporating various interpretations of cataclysmic and transformative events of which include:
- Environmental collapse – theory centered on a planet threatened by ecological disaster that threatens to decimate human populations at an unprecedented scale.
- Societal collapse – a theory derived from systems science that explains how societies decline either abruptly or gradually through the common disruption of: social cohesion, economic growth, and adaptability (Tainter, 1990).
I want to note that both the environmental and the societal collapse theories although loosely apocalyptic in the sense that allows us to conceptualize societal decline, are competent social theories that avoid the trappings of most pseudoscience. The underlining contexts of both theories however, are in no way absent of the teleological constraints or paradigms that are the definitive mark within other forms of apocalyptic literature. I have made the decision to incorporate these theories with the intention of broadcasting the amplest evidence and to delineate the different kinds of apocalypses, in this instance the types where collapse signifies a cataclysmic and transformative event.
The inclination to focus on the apocalypse is merely to spotlight the habitual determination of humanity’s attempt to explain the present condition or present crises. The odyssey though fraught with folly and perhaps a bit of stubborn delusion as to the central role mankind plays in determining the future and the state of being, is one that is uniquely human and perhaps a crucial detail that differentiates humanity from other animals.
Robert K. Sitler (2006). The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar. Novo Religio: the Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Joseph Tainter (1990). The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press).
Michael Hall (2009). Apocalypse: From Antiquity to The Empire of Modernity. (Polity, CA)