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Excerpt from "Apocalypse Not"

Everything You Know About 2012, Nostradamus and the Rapture Is Wrong

by John Michael Greer

Someday far in the future—about four billion years from now, according to current astrophysical theory—the coreof the Sun will have burnt enough of its hydrogen fuel that it can no longer counter the pressure of its own gravity. As it gradually collapses inwards, over the next two billion years, the Sun will balloon into a red giant, a hundred times larger than it is today, and any life that happens to remain on Earth at that distant date will be crisped by daytime temperatures that will peak somewhere around 2600° F.

A quarter million years or so later, the Sun’s core will pass a critical threshold and start fusing helium; the resulting “helium flash” will blast a third of the Sun’s mass into deep space in a matter of minutes. In all probability, whatever charred cinder remains of the Earth at that point will be blown to smithereens by that blast, and its fragments will be scattered back into the interstellar dust from which it formed some ten billion years before.

Countless millions of years before that happens, it’s a safe bet that humanity will have gone extinct. The average species, according to the few available rough estimates, lasts for about a million years, and our species, Homo sapiens, has existed for around two hundred thousand years, or some- thing like a fifth of that theoretical span; the average genus, again according to a rough estimate, lasts for about ten million years, and our genus, Homo, has been around for maybe a quarter of that. All of recorded history amounts to five thousand years so far, so if our species has an average lifespan and maintains written records from now on, we have compiled a little more than half of one percent of our ultimate written history. Still, one way or another, the time will doubtless come when the last human beings die out, possibly to be replaced after a time

by some other intelligent species, perhaps not.

Much closer to our own time, in all probability, our current civilization will have joined the long list of human societies that overshot their resource base and ended up as one more addition to history’s compost heap. One common fantasy these days insists that contemporary industrial civilization has nothing in common with the civilizations of the past, and thus can expect to soar endlessly upwards to some date with destiny out there among the stars; another

common fantasy insists with equal fervor that contemporary industrial civilization is poised on the brink of cataclysm and will shortly and suddenly be annihilated for its sins.

Both of these fantasies come straight out of the apocalypse meme, one by way of Joachim of Fiore and the Marquis de Condorcet, the other by way of secular rehashings of the standard Christian apocalyptic myth, and both can therefore be discounted. It’s far more likely that future generations will visit the crumbling remains of today’s urban centers the way we visit the ruined cities of Egypt and the ancient Mayans, and scholars of that distant time will argue with one another about the reasons why the ancient Americans traced out the same course of political dysfunction, economic decline, and eventual technological collapse as so many other civiliza-

tions before—and, no doubt, since.

These three predictions, speculative as they inevitably must be, share a common theme: in the real world, everything eventually comes to an end. Worlds perish in stellar fire, species go extinct, civilizations decline and fall, and of course each one of us inhabits a bodythat is ripening toward death with every moment that passes, and will eventually do what it was born to do and shut down. In one of its most important senses, the apocalypse meme is a response to the awareness of these hard facts—or, more precisely, it’s an evasion of those facts, an attempt to pretend that they don’t apply to us.

The author has been featured on the History Channel as an expert on mythology, religion, conspiracy theory, and popular culture

For almost 3,000 years apocalypse prophecies have convinced people all over the world that the future is about to give them the world they want instead of the world they’ve got. All the end time prophecies splashed across the media in every age have had something else in common: every one of them has been wrong. Apocalypse Not is a lively and engaging survey of predictions about the end of the world, along with the failed dreams and nightmares that have clustered around them. Among the stories highlighted in Apocalypse Not are: the birth of the apocalypse meme out of archaic star myths in the ancient Middle East; the failed end time prophecies of Nostradamus, Mother Shipton, and other famous prophets; the long and murky road from the Great Pyramid to today’s Rapture beliefs; and the real origins of the belief in apocalypse in 2012 (hint: it’s not originally Mayan at all).

John Michael Greer is the author of the award-winning The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, Secrets of the Lost Symbol, and also writes a popular futurist blog, The Archdruid Report. He lives in Cumberland, MD.

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