Coming Again
The orgasmic release of the Apocalypse myth

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! -- Chicken Little

Back in the early 1980s, Vicki Weaver, a pious Christian lady, persuaded her husband Randy that the Bible proved that the final battle between Christ and Antichrist would take place in 1987, beginning with an attempted slaughter of the Christians by ZOG -- the Zionist Occupied Government in Washington, D.C. The two of them (and their children) logically moved to a high hill in Idaho -- Ruby Ridge -- where they planned to stage their own last fight for the Lord.

See also...
... by Robert Anton Wilson
... in the Whoa! section
... from November 15, 1999

Alas, 1987 passed, Vicki had to recalculate, and things were a bit fuzzy there for a while. But then the '90s came 'round, Randy sold a sawed-off shotgun to a government informer, and the Feds arrived to arrest him. Randy and Vicki thought they were facing the ZOG, the Feds thought they were dealing with lunatics, and the results were so bloody all around that Ruby Ridge remains controversial to this day.

Sometimes, the Apocalypse can ruin your whole week.

On the other hand, I have survived Doomsday so many times that it has begun to bore me. In the last three months alone, I have -- we all have -- lived right on through three dates that leading eschatologists have authoritatively named as the Day of Reckoning (11 August, 11 September, and 7 November.).

I wonder why so many people have such a lascivious longing for the Apocalypse? It seems a far more popular fantasy game than Dungeons & Dragons, and, of course, it has all the thrills and chills of a slasher movie.

But there may be more here, just as there is to horror and catastrophe movies if you think about them. Neo-Freudians, and especially Reichians, suggest that our form of civilization stifles and constricts us so much that at times we all long to experience some orgasmic but catastrophic "explosion," like King Kong breaking his chains and wrecking New York, or even more like the masochist in bondage, according to Dr. Reich. This sudden release from the bondage-and-discipline of our jobs and our taxes -- actually called the Rapture by Fundamentalists -- seems ghoulishly attractive to Christians, New Agers, and others who believe in a "spirit" that will survive the general wreckage. In that case, the end of the world seems no worse than a visit to the dentist: You know you'll feel better afterwards. This sort of desire for Total Escape/Total Annihilation has always had its bards and visionaries.

Christianity, for instance, started out as a typical Doomsday cult:

Verily, I say unto you, there will be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death until they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power. -- Mark 9:1

And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars... This generation shall not pass until all be fulfilled. -- Luke 21: 25,32

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven ... This generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled. -- Matt 24: 30,34

Of course, when all the marks standing there and their whole generation did pass without the Apocalypse coming, these prophecies required reinterpretation. The second most common talent among Doomsayers -- after their unparalleled ability to predict dates on which the world perversely does not end -- is their capacity to recalculate. But, then, theology is logic with deuces and one-eyed jacks wild.

Among those not committed to the Rapture, prophecies of doom usually have another loophole: Only most of humanity will perish. In these scenarios, those with the Right Ideas will survive, although they will probably need to stockpile food, water, and guns in advance.

Those with the Right Ideas are the ones who believe in the Prophet, of course. Thus there seems an element of sadism mixed in with the masochism of the Millennialist mentality: We will suffer only a little, these folks say, but the rest of you motherfuckers are really going to get the works. Well, Freud himself pronounced that sadism and masochism always contain a bit of one another.

Here's a brief list of some of the Doomsdays that had to be postponed:

  • 1141 CE -- Hildegard of Bingen predicted the world would end that year. It didn't.
  • October 22, 1844 -- This was Doomsday, as calculated from the Bible by William Miller, who had previously goofed by announcing that it would occur in 1843. When the 1844 prophecy also failed, new calculations from the same texts gave birth to the Adventists, the Seventh-day Adventists and, later, the Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • The Jehovah's Witnesses originally picked 1914 as the jackpot year. Some of them rejoiced in the bloody World War that began that year, as the palpable, visible, undeniable "beginning" of the end. But others calculated exact years for the end of the end: 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, and 1994, for instance. I survived all of them, and I guess you did, too, or you wouldn't be reading this.
  • In 1957, a pastor named Mihran Ask chose April 23, 1957 as the Last Day; I remember that vividly because Paul Krassner claimed in the next issue of The Realist that the world had really ended that day and we just weren't paying attention.
  • In 1986, Moses David of the Children of God predicted the battle of Armageddon would happen that year and Christ would return in 1993.
  • In 1983, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh predicted the catastrophes would begin in 1984 and climax in 1999.
  • The famous psychic Edgar Cayce predicted that Christ would return in 1998. Why haven't we heard from him? Maybe he's having trouble finding a place to rent.
  • Another psychic, Criswell -- best remembered for his oratorical performances in Ed Wood's movies -- predicted August 18, 1999 as the end of time.

This is only a very, very small selection of failed end-times prophecy; if you are curious, you can find longer lists of Doomsdays here and here.

So far, the batting average of all Doomsayers has stayed firm at 0.000. That, of course, will not stop this ever-popular guessing game. We survived the alleged three meteors of November 7, but we still have Y2K ahead of us; and if we survive that, well, the Weekly World News recently reported the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to be in the vicinity of Santa Fe, heading east.

As long as people enjoy scaring themselves and scaring one another, horror movies will remain popular, and so will Doomsday. Pick a date -- any date -- and you may become the leader of a new cult. You may even get as rich as Rajneesh or the Pope.

Robert Anton Wilson is the author of 32 books, including Everything Is Under Control, an encyclopedia of conspiracy theories, and maintains the Web's strangest site @ He also serves as CEO of CSICON (the Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal).

Robert Anton Wilson's Night Music runs every other Monday on GettingIt.