Apocalyptic and Millenalist Worldviews

April 27. 2023

Contemporary and Historic Perspectives on Apocalyptic and Millennialist Worldviews


Organizer: MTA-SZTE ’Convivence’ Religious Pluralism Research Group

Venue: SZTE BTK Kari Konferenciaterem, Szeged, Egyetem u. 2.


11.00-11.15 Welcome (Kinga Povedák, MTA-SZTE ’Convivence’ Religious Pluralism Research Group)


11.15- 12.15 James Kapaló (University College Cork): Michael and the Apocalypse in Twentieth Century Moldova


Abstract: In twentieth-century Moldova, folk beliefs and vernacular texts about the End of Days played an important role in the formation of millenarian religious movements informing the way that time and historical events were experienced during the tumultuous years of the Russian revolutionary period and Moldova’s subsequent incorporation into Romania. Through an exploration of the texts and images published by the Moldovan peasant visionary Alexandru Culiac aka the Holy Spirit of the Archangel Michael, this paper illustrates how oral legend and creative visual practices came together to animate the events of an unfolding Eschaton. The Moldovan movement discussed in this paper continued its underground existence throughout the Soviet-era and as I argue here, illustrates the enduring significance of eschatological folk legend for understanding the roots of contemporary new religious movements in the post-Soviet context.


13.30-14.30 Daniel Wojcik (SZTE Fulbright Visiting Professor, University of Oregon): Apocalypse, UFO Mythologies, and Extraterrestrial Eschatology

Abstract: The initial beliefs about flying saucers that arose at the dawn of the atomic age quickly assumed apocalyptic and millennialist meanings in response to the threat of nuclear annihilation and other societal crises. Such ideas were configured within existing esoteric and folkloric traditions while also representing techno-mythological innovations that promised otherworldly deliverance by celestial/extraterrestrial/angelic savior beings interceding during times of crisis. This presentation, illustrated with visual examples, traces the eschatological origins and development of the early UFO faith, and presents case studies of several well-known UFO religious groups. The mythic aspects of these vernacular UFO belief systems are examined, with particular focus on apocalyptic and millennialist scenarios. In their synthesis of the discourses of science and religion, the varied apocalyptic narratives that characterize UFO beliefs offer insights into the creation of modern millennialist traditions; in addition, such beliefs also illustrate the primary forms of millennialist thought, with broader application for an understanding of eschatological mythmaking in general.

14.30-15.30 László Attila Hubbes (Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania): Apocalyptic Mentality and Mythopoeic Conspirituality: Paradigmatic parallels for alternative realities in the realm of social media

Abstract: Apocalyptic mentality, conspiracy mindedness and New Age spirituality show striking similarities. Eschatological end time catastrophism from its ancient form of classical, transcendental apocalyptic, involving last judgment, millennial hopes and otherworldly projections, through the contemporary ‘superflat apocalypse’ (DiTommaso 2014) still stands in contrast with modern conspiracism and New Age occultism. In their present forms however, all of them are expressions of the re-enchantment of the world, new types of disperse religiosity and spirituality, and they are characterized by polarized interpretation of reality, building up complete alternative universes. Due to their common threads these mythopoeic worlds can easily overlap and merge, resulting in various eclectic, bricolage combinations, such as apocalyptic conspiracism (Barkun 2003), millennialistic UFO-ism (Wojcik 2003), New Age apocalypticism (Sitler 2006, Wilson 2016), conspiracist New Age spirituality (Voas and Ward 2013, Asprem and Dyrendal 2015) or even all three together (Robertson 2017). Nevertheless, they also bear pronounced differences in regard to their core beliefs and attitudes, central concerns and topics of interest. The focus of this paper is on comparing these paradigmatic world visions strongly impacting contemporary (popular) culture, as they are mirrored in social media.