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View Full Version : Reverse-Engineering the Apocalypse



Maxx
08-26-2010, 04:45 PM
A recent thread in the comparative religions subforum started me thinking about what might be interesting about the latest cycle of apocalyptic expectation. In the OP for the thread in the other subforum, a fellow named Mckenna is cited. One possibly interesting (from the point of view of language and culture) aspect of McKenna's eschatology is the idea that the signs of the apocalypse (which in McKenna's view might be a good thing as in "are you a good witch or a bad witch") are travelling backward in time from the big event. From the point of view of pop culture this is intriguing. First of all, why is travelling backward in time supposed to be a convincing thing for signs to do? Second, if this reversed time authority of prophetic utterances is supposed to be convincing, what does it say about possible changes in pop culture, ie changes in cultural perception that both require an apocalyptic explanation and involve a reversal in the temporal flow of prophetic signs?

Ruv Draba
09-06-2010, 03:11 PM
Beats me, Maxx.. As information travels over distance and time it attenuates. Consequently you'd expect that any messages from the future would be clear, specific and frequent from the near future, faint, vague and infrequent from the far future. But we see none of that. It seems to me just an idle, half-baked notion.

As to why our culture might consider that argument more persuasive today than twenty years ago... I wonder whether it's cyclic. Prophecy stories have been with us for millennia. If we include time cycles, time travel stories date from at least the Jainish version of the Mahabharata, 3-4BCE. What's passť to one generation can become novel again to another. Or are we worried about our futures? Are choices on carbon emissions bothering us? Do we perhaps wish we had some unequivocal wisdom from wiser future selves?

Xelebes
09-06-2010, 10:24 PM
Temporal lobe epilepsy is gaining ground as a hypothesis for explaining prophesy.

Maxx
09-07-2010, 05:07 PM
Beats me, Maxx.. As information travels over distance and time it attenuates. Consequently you'd expect that any messages from the future would be clear, specific and frequent from the near future, faint, vague and infrequent from the far future. But we see none of that. It seems to me just an idle, half-baked notion.

As to why our culture might consider that argument more persuasive today than twenty years ago... I wonder whether it's cyclic. Prophecy stories have been with us for millennia. If we include time cycles, time travel stories date from at least the Jainish version of the Mahabharata, 3-4BCE. What's passť to one generation can become novel again to another. Or are we worried about our futures? Are choices on carbon emissions bothering us? Do we perhaps wish we had some unequivocal wisdom from wiser future selves?


I was thinking about the specific imagery that McKenna appropriates from the fringes of pseudo-science. One of the possibly interesting things about the fringes of pseudo-science as sets of popular images that are both plausible somehow and completely vague is that for a long time they built on images from atomic physics as it was before 1930 whenever a pseudophysics was required. So you always had "Uncertainty" and "electrons" but you never had "Strong force" or "weak force" or any field theories. McKenna's "traveling backward in time" sounds like borrowing from early 1940s ideas of positrons vs electrons so that would be a 10-20 year leap forward for pop ideas of pseudo-science.
Similarly the gigantic wonderful event that McKenna postulates would be the acceptance by the self-help centers of the popular mind of the unexpected results of WWII which must have strained the credulity of the deep self-help centers of the popular mind by showing a case in which a highly regimented set of physical fitness and mental purity cults were defeated by flabby, bohemian hedonists full of mentally lax ideas. The archetypal precursor to this massive shift in deep popular images would be the confrontation between Fascist Biff and bohemian McFly Senior in the first episode of Back to the Future -- which also involved the rhetoric of time reversal.