Monday, February 19, 2007


Millenarianism (sometimes spelled millenarism or millennarism) is the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming major transformation of society after which all things will be changed in a positive (or sometimes negative or ambiguous) direction. Millennialism is a specific form of Millenarianism based on a one thousand year cycle.

Millenarian groups typically claim that the current society and its rulers are corrupt, unjust, or otherwise wrong. They therefore believe they will be destroyed soon by a powerful force. The harmful nature of the status quo is always considered intractable without the anticipated dramatic change. In Medieval millenarianism the world was seen as controlled by demons and even up to the nineteenth century Chinese millenarianism used something like this motif, but with "demon" having a slightly different cultural connotation. In the modern world economic rules or vast conspiracies are seen as generating oppression. Only dramatic change will change the world and change will be brought about, or survived, by a group of the devout and dedicated. In most millenarian scenarios, the disaster or battle to come will be followed by a new, purified world in which the true believers will be rewarded.

Millenarian beliefs can make people ignore conventional rules of behaviour, which can result in violence directed inwards (such as mass suicides) and/or outwards (such as terrorist acts). It sometimes includes a belief in supernatural powers or predetermined victory. In some cases, millenarians withdraw from society to await the intervention of God or another metaphysical force.

Millenarian ideologies or religious sects often appear in oppressed peoples.

Examples of the millenarian groups, movements and writings:

Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Fifth Monarchy Men
Plymouth Brethren
Branch Davidians
Yellow Turbans
Taiping Rebellion
Aum Supreme Truth
The Native American Ghost Dance
The Heaven's Gate cult
The Turner Diaries
The Lord's Resistance Army
Jehovah's Witnesses

In politics, millenarianism is often, but by no means always, linked to radical ideologies that share a similar belief in a transformation of society. These can be based in secular or religious ideas. In this way millenarianism is closely linked to Apocalypticism.

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