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