Eugene V. Gallagher
Catastrophic millennialism emanates from a deep pessimism towards society, history, and general humanity. This article develops an analysis of the basic descriptive vocabulary of catastrophic millennialism from the examination of a pair of texts from Late Antiquity. It simultaneously emphasizes a catastrophic end to life as we know it and “a heaven on earth”, the new coming of humanity, following the cleansing. The article also states that predictions of the apocalypse always combine certain general but instrumental factors that invariably strengthen the conflict. This article shows how a group of contemporary millennialist movements have used the basic tropes of catastrophic millennialism to create their own distinctive apocalyptic messages. It highlights how these groups differ in their assessments of why the world will soon be destroyed, precisely how it will happen, who will accomplish that destruction, when and where it will happen, and, especially, what their faithful followers must do in the meantime.
Peter B. Clarke
Several of the new religious movements (NRMs) of modern times have become global movements. Among these are the Soka Gakkai of Japan; the Brahma Kumaris, Sathya Sai Baba, and Hare Krishna of India; the Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion and Relief Society of Taiwan; and Scientology, which began in the United States in the early 1950s. In order to become global movements, NRMs must often depend heavily on one particular ethnic group as they expand beyond their home base. On arrival in new cultural contexts, movements are most likely to appeal to first- or second-generation economic migrants from the same ethnic background as the missionaries who brought the movement to the region in the first place. While being themselves part of the process of ever-increasing globalization, NRMs also throw light on the dynamics and mechanics of this process, on how it plays itself out. This article discusses the globalization and “glocalization” of NRMs, as well as NRMs as vehicles of a new spirituality.