Revolution and the Millennium: China, Mexico, and Iran

By James F. Rinehart | Go to book overview

Introduction

The idea of the end of the world offers humankind a tantalizing, yet confusing, appeal. On the one hand, such a notion provides us with a certain amount of definition and precision to the otherwise ambiguous and sporadic nature of the human experience. The cosmological nature that surrounds the notion of a final reckoning between good and evil -- between the moral perfection of God triumphing over the anti-God, the embodiment of all that is evil in the world -- is perhaps the most compelling of all human conceptions. It offers final solutions to seemingly unanswerable questions about the meaning of life. And generates a profound sense of renewal and inspiration that humans are generally incapable of otherwise sensing in the temporal world.

On the other hand, the anticipated achievement of this final epoch of paradise and absolute freedom leaves us profoundly bewildered, restless, and overwhelmed. There are simply too many unanswered questions. Will there truly be an end time? If so, when will it happen? What will be its nature? What will follow? And perhaps most important, what role will humans perform in such an event? What should be done to prepare the way for the final days? Will humans be actively involved in events or merely innocent bystanders?

Such questions sustain our anxiety about our present condition and, at the same time, energize our imaginations about the possibility of a better, or perhaps even perfect, existence following the end time.

This is a study of how humankind has attempted to answer some of these questions. It is a study of the relationship between millenarianism and revolution. As such, it will consider the connection between two distinctly different social phenomena, both of which represent what one could consider the extreme within their respective ideological categories. On the one hand, revolution embodies the

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