We’ve already been lucky enough to interview William Hopper about his book The Heathens Guide to Christmas. Now we’re extremely lucky to be able to share some exclusive insight via a guest post on his latest book – The Eschaton*.
The Ultimate Armageddon
What if every prophecy from every religion happened at the same time?
With the Mayan 2012 prophecies making the news lately, readers seem eager to re-examine the many myths that foretell the end of the world. Of particular interest to bloggers and commentators has been the attempt to tie the Mayan myth to the Christian Apocalypse. While the attempts have made for some great reading, the reality of trying to align Mayan and Christian theologies is daunting. For me, though, the tale had to be much bigger. If there ever was an “end-of-the-world”, then it would encompass the entire world. As such, every religion (and every God) would be involved.
Many years ago, I took a course at university entitled “Eschatology: the study of the end times”. While I admittedly went into it with visions of the Antichrist and Jesus battling it out, I was quite fortunate to have had a very good professor who went far beyond the requisite Book of Revelations Apocalypse. He included in the lectures the prophecies of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and many other faiths that are normally ignored.
It was back then that the basic idea for The Eschaton occurred to me: What would happen if all these prophecies came true at the same time?
A few years later, I was reading a book by Frithjof Schuon; “The Transcendent Unity of Religions.” While it had nothing to do with the end of the world, it contributed greatly to my view of the theologies involved. I’d already begun to look for a way to align all the predictions into a “divine plan”, but was failing miserably. As such, I placed a lot of hope on Schuon’s book as he was trying to show that there was, in fact, a commonality to all religion. Back then, Shuon’s ideas failed me. While they were great cerebrally, I was all too aware that when you actually deal with the adherents of these faiths, cerebral arguments do not work. There may be a “transcendent unity”, but on the street level the faiths were utterly distinct.
Still, the thought intrigued me.
It was the carnage of 9/11 that gave me my first real insight into how a mass-Apocalypse would actually occur. Like most people, I watched the images of the Twin Towers falling, and listened as the news came that Muslims were responsible. This, of course, was quickly countered by imams who explained that the 9/11 attackers did not represent the whole of the faith. They were, in fact, a radical sect of Islam.
This got me to thinking…
I realized then that the problem I was having in aligning the end time prophecies was that I had been trying to do so in a peaceful and harmonious way. I had assumed that (for example) the better natures of Vishnu and Christ would preclude conflict. A divine plan, I thought, would be able to rise above the obvious suffering, destruction, and carnage that would happen if all our Gods walked the Earth at the same time. The 9/11 attackers showed me that I was fundamentally wrong in this assumption. Regardless of what the divine plan might be, the reality of such an event would be absolute Hell. There would be bloodshed, cruelty, and horror no matter whose God you believe to be true.
From there, the book opened up to me. I began to see how these prophecies would manifest and, more importantly, where they would collide. Then, amid these conflicting apocalypses, I brought to the story the most chaotic element: the faith and lives of the humans who worship our Gods.
People often ask me if there’s a ‘winner’ in The Eschaton. I always tell them yes, there is. In the final battle between all the religions and all the Gods, one theology would absolutely win out over all the others. However, the answer to whose God ultimately proves most powerful (and the reasons for this) will have to be found in the reading of the book.
In Pure Spirit
We’ve also been given a large preview of The Eschaton itself. It’s too large to re-print fully in this article but here’s a sample:
The Temple Mount
October 16th (the third day of Sukkoth) 9:12 am
When Isaac Barresh was a boy, he knew without question that the promised messiah was about to arrive. His family had moved to the Holy Land in 1953 to become proud citizens of the new nation of Israel. It had been a time of unprecedented hope. Ezekiel’s prophesies seemed to be coming true. The Diaspora was over. The Temple Mount, denied to Jews since 70 AD, was finally within their grasp. Like many in Israel at the time, Isaac understood that these signs heralded the imminent rise of a new messiah.
That was sixty years ago.
Now, half a mile from the Wailing Wall, Isaac could already see the crowd of Muslims gathering near Al Aqsa. They’d be boys mostly— teenagers full of vigor and purpose ready to defend their faith with rocks and insults. Rabbi Baird had weeded out the worst of the trouble makers from their own procession, but Isaac could still see fervor in the eyes of the young men who walked with them. There would be bloodshed today.
“It wasn’t always like this.” he said to the closest of them.
“What!?” the boy replied, barely registering Isaac’s voice above the chants.
“I said it was not always like this.” Isaac repeated, louder this time. “The Six Day War. I was there. I was part of the first brigade to pass through the Lion’s Gate and take control of the Temple Mount.”
“We should have killed them all back then and been done with it!” the boy said, smiling. When he realized that Isaac was not smiling back he turned away abruptly, losing himself in the crowd.
Their procession followed the old roads to the Mugrabi Gate. There, Rabbi Baird stopped the pickup truck that carried the Cornerstone of the New Temple. Isaac had walked in this procession for twenty-three years now, and had seen his share of violence and death come with it. He also had taken the long road back from the Temple, watching as the Cornerstone— and the hope it represented— was packed away for another year.
Still, he hoped. He prayed. And he walked.
The turnout had been good. By the time they were at the gate their numbers had grown to several hundred. There had been demonstrations earlier in the week, and the Knesset had been forced to prevent the stone from actually passing onto the Temple Mount itself. Instead they would pray at the gate, far from the confrontations that waited within.
It seemed that the plan to keep the peace had worked. As they neared the gate, the priests were singing the old hymns, unimpeded by the Muslims who looked on from above. For the moment, Isaac allowed himself to believe that it would all go well. They would finish the blessing, say their prayers, and he would be back home before noon. He eyed the walls above, wary, but content that the Muslims there meant them no harm so long as they did not carry the stone across the threshold.
It was because he was watching the Muslims that Isaac missed the real threat. Without warning their small crowd suddenly grew to a thousand as armed men erupted from every side street and building, easily overwhelming the procession. The first of them, presumably their leader, leapt on the back of the pickup, pushing Rabbi Baird aside. The singing stopped.
If you’d like to buy the book (go on, go on…) then you can do so at Amazon*.
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