A violent turn in 2012 apocalypticism

2012: Doomsday (2008) – another forgettable film in a cultural imaginary that is closing in on its final doom.

Finally it has happened: the first report of a 2012-apocalypse movement turning violent. The so-called “2012 phenomenon”, an occultural apocalyptic mythology with roots in the psychedelic gnosis of Terrence McKenna, the New Age prophesies of José Argüelles, and creative fringe-archaeological interpretations of the Maya “Long Count” calendar, has for the most part been oriented towards peaceful prophecies of a “global change in consciousness” or a “massive awakening”. But with countless improvisations on the theme by UFO-logists, conspiracy theorists, survivalists, and other denizens of the  darker segments of occulture, grimmer visions are hardly difficult to come by. Often enough, the boundaries between “positive”  expectations of global consciousness change (or the messianic arrival of friendly ETs) and the “negative” expectation of polar shifts, massive geological destruction, or the final enslavement of humanity by evil aliens, is not that easy to draw. What happens if the promised change for the better does not occur? What are the strategies of rationalizing such an (after all, realistically anticipated) theodicy? Could it be that the evil aliens are already here, and always were, working  in secret with the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Bilderbergers and the world’s shadow governments to thwart the promised salvation?

Those who have been following the developing 2012-mythology for a while (I did until ca. 2009, when I gradually got tired of it and lost interest) and are a little bit familiar with the literature on “doomsday cults” and violence should not be surprised to hear about the recent incident in the Dominican Republic, involving a German organisation called “The Academy for Future Health“.  According to journalists, the group’s leader, Peter Brunck, was arrested by Dominican police on October 17, after a shootout between the police and members of his group holding stand at a fortified retreat complex outside Sosua. One member of Brunck’s group was killed, and three police officers injured. In the AFFH complex, which comprised 20 luxurious villas, enforced with fortifications and even a radioactivity-proof bombshelter, the police found an arsenal of M-16 assault rifles and modern commando crossbows, specifically designed for silent killing. Whatever the group was preparing for, it might have gotten much bloodier than it did. The Dominican authorities certainly argue that they have averted a new Waco.

The AFFH appears to teach that humanity has interbred with alien lifeforms in a very distant past – these aliens founded a number of highly advanced pre-historic civilizations on earth, and parts of their genome can still be found in human DNA . The group also claims to be in possession of secret knowledge concerning the past and future evolution of mankind and of consciousness, and prophecy that a rapid and revolutionary change is about to occur on the 21st of December, 2012. As Spiegel recounts, Peter Brunck adhered to a variety of the 2012-mythology where the earth is said to move through a “photon belt” these days, and by the end of 2012 will be dragged into an intense swirl of light particles, which will penetrate the earth and transform all of its matter from within. The group refers to this imminent event as “The Transfer”.

There is a catch, of course: those who have not yet learned to control their minds and psycho-physical processes through the various therapeutic and meditative, mind-altering techniques taught by Brunck in his seminars, will be literally boiled from within when this happens – as if the earth suddenly turned into a cosmic microwave oven. Those who know the esoteric techniques, will be able to transform their bodies, quite literally, and become the first members of a superior species. As Brunck is quoted as saying: “It will be the first time in the history of the earth that the human body will be transformed alive”. A new race of men will arise from this sudden leap of evolution, and they will populate a new, transformed earth.

What the photon-enhanced supermen needed silent crossbows and automatic assault rifles for is unclear, since one would think that all of the uninitiated would already have been fried alive by cosmic radiation. More likely, the weaponry was there to protect the group’s secrets and its autonomy from external threats before the day of doom.

Or protect Brunck’s dubious business empire. For good reason. Brunck had apparently grown extremely rich, helped in no small part by powerful allies in politics, as Spiegel‘s Andreas Ulrich recounts. With wealth and power comes enemies; in 2006, Brunck survived an attempt on his life, when two unidentified men on a motorcycle opened fire at him. The cult leader was already prepared, however, and a bulletproof vest  saved his life. After this event, the group is said to have grown even more suspicious of outsiders, and building even stronger fortifications and security systems.

With all of this information, an image is forming that appears quite familiar to anyone with a basic knowledge of the – luckily, very limited – number of previous cases where new religious movements, and particularly “doomsday cults”, have turned violent. The infamous ones, such as the Branch Davidians in Waco, Rev. Jones’ Peoples’ Temple, the Aum Shinrikio in Japan, and the Order of the Solar Temple in Switzerland and Canada, all seem to have a certain mix of factors that make things go wrong: the strong emphasis of an impending apocalyptic event is mixed with autocratic leadership issues (which may involve a shady entrepreneurial aspect, and/or issues of psychopathology), and significantly, with a real threat from the outside world that seems to confirm, trigger and intensify already existent suspicions about the evils of government agencies or other secular authorities. In other words, there is a number of sociological, psychological, and theological factors that seem to work together in unique ways when “cults” like this turn bad.

Weapons found at the complex (source: BBC).

With this knowledge, it has always been clear that the 2012-mythology, like any other apocalyptic mythology, contained the theological prerequisite for such events. However, since the contemporary occulture in which 2012-apocalypticism is generally produced, distributed, and consumed in various ways is highly amorphous, weak in stable institutions, and largely mediated through popular culture, online forums etc., rather than actually constituted by real-life groups with strong social bonds, the threat of it simultaneously attracting the other factors apparently required for violence has remained relatively low. One needed an autocratic leader on a par with Jim Jones, Shoko Asahara, or David Koresh. One needed actual communities that are relatively closely knit, and sharing the apocalyptic theology. And one needed the actual pressure from the outside – whether this pressure is exerted for political and theological reasons, or for investigations of purely secular concerns, such as fraud, money laundry, corruption, sexual abuse, or other forms of criminal activity. In the case of The Academy for Future Health, it appears that these factors did indeed come together, forming this occultural, spiritual retreat centre into a potentially dangerous group.The Dominican police may have been right that they averted a future violent rupture at the camp, but ironically, their reference to Waco may also have been more apt than they thought – it is today little doubt that the tragedy at Waco never would have happened had it not been for the unnecessarily aggressive approach of the FBI. Similarly, the Dominican authorities may have helped providing the sociological factor of external pressure.

It is hard to say anything conclusive at this point, however, as the reports that have come through the media are all relatively scanty about details such as how life was organised at the retreat centre, who were the participants and members, how central was the group’s apocalypticism, what were the actual motivations and goals of the leader, and how had the situation with the authorities been building up over time. At any rate, the Academy for Future Health now belongs on the list of case studies for violence in/by new religious movements.

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This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ”Turn bad”,, Too quickly I presume?? As far as I’m concerned their affairs is of primary importance to the law enforcement agencies concerned and is by all means a political issue, and hence will accordingly be treated as such!?

    You can never beat heresiarchs of this order, and you can never play the “win” game against them. It is within the inherent makeup of society to perpetually breed such mutants, and the blame of their misdemeanours will always lie upon the constituency of the greater part.

    I’m not getting paid to elaborate upon that further, but be that as it may, you seem to be doing (within the subject of interest) just that!

    Dick to dick – cunt to cunt

    ! : ?

    • … Alright.

      • 🙂 Thanx for some great articles, they are really a quite enjoyable read!!

        Sorry ’bout the rant, my idea was merely to emphasize a sadly too often overlooked fact, namely, that there’ll probably be no investigation at a greater governmental level at all into the factors that resulted in this tragedy. The problem is somewhat due to the fact, that the government is in itself a result of a society build upon the vestiges of ancient cults that “won out”. Nobody wants to point fingers at themselves. There’s simply too much at stake for everyone involved to start messin’ with the status quo of the cultic milieu or society in general!

        ! : ?

  2. […] la probabilità di simili situazioni sembra abbastanza bassa. Ne è convinto, ad esempio, lo studioso di religioni Egil […]

  3. […] la probabilità di simili situazioni sembra abbastanza bassa. Ne è convinto, ad esempio, lo studioso di religioni Egil […]

  4. […] la probabilità di simili situazioni sembra abbastanza bassa. Ne è convinto, ad esempio, lo studioso di religioni Egil […]

  5. Dr Asprem, wow. I had no idea of this circumstance. I greatly appreciate your bringing it to attention – especially in context of the discussion you present. Beyond theory or disciplinary interest, I feel lies a vital foundation of values and integrity – broad human concern, common cause.

    Tuning into psychedelic interests of the past two decades, and found myself asking unsettling questions. I come from a background in plant and fungal biology (PhD), anthropology (MA, plus PhD coursework), and comparative religion (BA). For all the disciplinary methods of theory these fields of inquiry offer – I’ve found myself, by necessity, taking an increasingly forensic-like approach, increasingly concerned at what I’ve found. And sometimes feel like a ‘voice in the wilderness’ asking uncomfortable questions in evidence, based on observations and findings.

    Can one be shocked – yet not surprised? That’d describe my sense, reading of this event. My attention has gradually been shifting more and more, to an appearance of an authoritarian or fanatic-like trend in neopsychedelia (as I call it). It strikes me as most evident, but not exclusive, in the veneration of charismatic icon Terence McKenna (“TMism” – term I use).

    I hope to give you an idea (may it of interest), by this excerpt from a reply I posted to a review of TRUE HALLUCINATIONS:

    ” … the fanaticism evident (in TMism) would suggest a potential for violence. Millenarian and paranoid apocalyptic forms of thought programming can have a lot of anti-social energy and appeal, and capture significant alienation. And slow cook them, distill, condense and concentrate the 360 degree hostility and anger.
    How long before we’ll have physical violence by TMists? I wonder. So far, its aggression is conspicuous but seems mainly ‘slimeball stage.’ Before the Nazis gained enough power/position to freely openly murder and pillage, ‘flesh and blood’ aggression — they operated at lower, more covert levels. Vandalizing and scandalizing targets, trying to inflict damage economically, destroy their livelihood, impoverish them… When prophets and gurus fail — dismally, desperately — tensions only rise among their reeled-in Followers. Whether mass suicides like Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate etc – or homicidal subway attacks (like in Japan, with nerve gas), violence is an inherent potential of fanaticism and mind control cultism. Maybe after Dec 21 this year, an ignition point will be triggered in the TM protocult …”

    (www.amazon.com/review/R3U5JM87ISA96Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0062506528&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful )

    Again thank you, and laurel kudos for your work. All things considered, I’m heartened, refreshed – at any inquiry with not just intelligence but conscience, present and accounted for. There seems so little rational, critically balanced study, and priority need. The cultural ferment surrounding psychedelics as an ‘alternate current of spirituality’ – as Hanegraaff cites it, in his article on 2012ism and McKenna as its primary architect – seems a dynamic factor in our milieu.

    There is so much more, a complex, massive territory for balanced, boldly-going nonpartisan inquiry – almost unexplored. Likewise there seem to be myriad challenges, disincentives – barriers of various kinds to overcome. Or so I consider. Best collegial regards from Florida, USA.

    Brian Akers

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