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Even more remarkable than the Antichrist's friends are his enemies, who seem to consist mostly of the followers of Ayn Rand. Known generically as "P. The main problem they pose, however, is not that they threaten his personality cult, but that they might not light their candles with everyone else. Certainly in the United States those were the years when the Baby Boom ended, so it is not unreasonable to suggest that people might have been more open to a story that did not view the birth of a baby as an unalloyed blessed event.

Levin's novel, " The Boys from Brazil ," was a high-tech version of the same theme. Be this as it may, there are certainly none of the conventional anti-natalist motifs in "Son of Rosemary.

Studying the End of the World: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

There is no occasion to mention kids as a career drag, and certainly there are none of the gruesome descriptions of morning sickness that figured so prominently in "Rosemary's Baby. Something else that is not the point is universal eschatology. Although the Antichrist and of course the Anti-Mary are the central characters, "Son of Rosemary" really has nothing to do with late 20th century beliefs about the Last Days, or for that matter the endtime beliefs of any time or place that I am aware of.

In both this novel and the earlier one, we are dealing not with apocalyptic, but with the world of ritual magic. Though this sort of thing does have its demotic side, the Levin books follow the literary tradition that places it among the educated and well-to-do. Its ceremonies must fit into private apartments however high-ceilinged , and its conspiracies are little vendettas. You cannot profitably fit an apocalypse onto a stage so small.

We see the world end on television and in that spectacular view of the Park. Still, "Son of Rosemary" is a genial book, considering the subject, and it will please people who remember the earlier novel when it was new. My memory played tricks with me as I read "Son of Rosemary. Gradually, though, I realized that I recalled information that could not have been on film, so I probably did read it while I was in grammar school.

With Both Hands

The little details are lovingly recalled in the new book. The tannis root. The scrabble. One word. No, I won't tell you. In I speculated that John Reilly probably knew Richard Landes , because of their common interests. I'm not sure how, since I referenced the ideas here in a couple of talks I gave at my local Catholic parish on millennialism. This essay is also an interesting point of contact with my unreleased review of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.

By , New York City had begun to decisively move away from the archetype of Gotham City that it had been embodying ever since the s[popularly referred to as the Sixties, this trend really started about and peaked in ]. The fate of Times Square is a synedoche for the city as a whole.


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The only time I have been to Times Square was in , on a school trip, and it was less seedy than in , but far less clean than John saw it in , or the sanitized version we have now. The story of how that happened is a fascinating one, and it illuminates the curious nature of American politics at present. But that is a story for another post. I really like Richard Landes' theory that millennialism is embarrassing to most educated Westerners, while also being absolutely fascinating to almost everyone, even the people who find it embarrassing. John takes that idea here, and links it up with a great many other ideas that he often featured on his blog, and produces a truly great essay on how the idea of historical progress fits in to the broader cultural trends of the West.

Written in , this essay is more optimistic than it would have been in An interesting twist to is that the optimism of really did manage to leave out a number of Americans from the increasing prosperity, but since they were largely concentrated in the declining industrial heartland, the hidden losers of the dotcom boom, the coastal elites largely ignored them.

This was likely helped by a very robust late 90s stock market. Pensions were generally pretty strong then.


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I rarely have occasion to walk through Times Square in Manhattan. My visits to the city usually have to do with business to the east or south. That was why, when I walked through the area one morning in the summer of on one of my even rarer visits to Lincoln Center, I was taken aback by how much the place had improved since the last time I saw it.

An Unexpected Apocalypse (The Prophecies Triptych Book 2)

It was still noisy and crowded it is hard to imagine that location in the city being otherwise , but the area was clean. The facades and many of the buildings were new. If any of the stores specialized in pornography, they were discrete about it. Shabby persons did not wait under the eaves of storefronts to offer goods and services to passersby. There was a cop or security guard on every other corner. If the dark, dystopic film "Bladerunner" is the popular image of the future American city, then here was a city that was evolving in a different direction. It was not just Times Square, of course.

The reason you see few politicians trekking to the South Bronx these days is that the burned-out neighborhoods that provided such dramatic photo opportunities for several election cycles have been substantially torn down and rebuilt. Actually, good news like this seems to crop up more and more these days, in areas ranging from medicine to crime statistics. Like many of the people who pass through Times Square each day, I generally just note the improvement and continue on my way. That morning, however, I was going to a meeting that gave me reason to consider such things in a broader context.

I was in Manhattan to speak to one Richard Landes, a medievalist from Boston University and an authority on the year With each year's calendar getting closer to the double-millennium figure, this previously obscure subject is becoming increasingly topical. It is already fashionable to attribute this or that event to "millennial fever. Anyway, we were meeting to talk about several of the academic projects that are in the works in connection with the upcoming turn of the millennium.

Landes is something of a revisionist. Like many revisionists who seek to overturn the accepted wisdom on a subject, his new interpretation is a dialectical synthesis that strongly resembles the view of the matter which preceded the accepted wisdom he is revising.

The White Horseman of the Apocalypse

For reasons which I trust I will be able to make clear, his ideas about the 11th century may have a great deal to do with the once and future Times Square. It was perhaps the nineteenth[-century] historian, Jules Michelet, who was most responsible for popularizing the idea of the "terrors of the year There are accounts of civil disturbances, of grotesque acts of mass public repentance, of popular prophets and their crazed followers. All in all, Michelet made the turn of the millennium sound like the sixteenth century on particularly bad day.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, historians realized there was something fishy about this picture. For one thing, while these accounts turn up in some historical literature from the period, they do not dominate it. More generally, Western Europe in the decades following the year really did not act like a society that was paralyzed by fear of the imminent end of the world, or that was disappointed by the failure of its eschatological schedule. The 11th century was the time when the great cathedrals began to go up and the crusades were launched, following decades of increasing contact with Byzantium and the Levant.

Western Christendom in those decades was an expanding, curious, inventive society. To that extent, it did resemble the Western Europe of the sixteenth century. However, this earlier age of discovery and change was not characterized by the dark disasters of the century that followed Columbus and Luther. This perhaps is the chief reason why for nearly a hundred years historians have generally believed that the "terrors of the year " existed largely in the minds of the nineteenth century Romantics. Well, maybe not.

Landes and other medievalists are taking a third look at the primary sources, and finding both more and less in them than did their predecessors. It is true that nothing happened around the beginning of the second millennium on the order of the Peasants' Revolt in sixteenth Germany. For purposes of eschatological anxiety, by the way, the millennium did not turn in an instant.

The year , for instance, was at least as good a year for the Second Coming in the minds of apocalyptic literalists as was the year On the other hand, it is not hard to find discussion about questions of universal eschatology in the writings of the period. Evidence of popular interest in these questions is fragmentary, but it is there. More accessible is the scholarly debate which arose about when the age might be expected to end.

PROPHECY APOCALYPSE: Stumbling Block Prophecy

Landes believes he detects a degree of censorship among the writers of the period in favor Augustine's model of history. Whatever else might be said of Augustine's ideas about the end of the world, certainly they tended to downplay the catastrophic and revolutionary. Violent, popular endtime belief is sometimes characterized as "millenarian," to be distinguished from the less dramatic "millennialism" with which Augustine is often associated. Augustine, in most interpretations of him, preserved the events of the Endtime depicted in Revelation and the Prophets as literal expectations for the indefinite future.

However, his system to the extent he had one was very wary of any attempts to discern eschatological significance in the events of secular history. The medieval Latin Church, in its eschatology as in so much else, was at least nominally Augustinian. The Church around the year , however, dealt in two ways with what probably was perceived to be a crisis of apocalyptic expectation. The immediate response was to deal with millenarianism on its own terms. The more long-term and more important response, however, was to transform apocalyptic into theodicy. The proper Augustinian reaction to millenarian enthusiasm, particularly to enthusiasm sparked by calendrical considerations, is to declare the time of the end to be unknowable.

What many of the authorities around the year did, however, was to quibble about chronology.

Book of Moses

Thus, accepting for the sake of argument the old thesis that the world would last 6, years, they answered doom-mongers with estimates for the age of the world that put the beginning of the seventh millennium a comfortable distance into the future. Such arguments were not always wholly convincing on their merits, and they did have the disadvantage of leaving time bombs for later Augustinians. The excitement about the year was perhaps a time bomb planted by Augustine himself. Be that as it may, such arguments sufficed for the immediate occasion, and they probably did contribute to the pacification of millenarian sentiment, especially among the lower clergy.

On the other hand, there is a great deal more to Augustinian eschatology than the suppression of other people's enthusiasms. Augustine is sometimes called "the father of progress. Augustine's ideas about the future bore little resemblance to those of, say, the Fabian socialists.