Sylvia Browne (2008) written with Lindsay Harrison, End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World.

The publication date is important here, 2008. Let’s say Sylvia Browne wrote the book in 2007. That gives us a baseline to work out how accurate her prophesies are in May 2022.

Confirmation bias tends to confirm what we already know, or think we know. Sylvia Browne cannot see a human race beyond the end of this century. With global warming that seems possible, if not probable.

‘…we’ve got a planet that’s slowly warmed to the point of cataclysmic flooding and violent weather events because of extreme levels of greenhouse gases. Rather than preserving our global forests we’re clearing them to create toilet paper…Tragically, we’ve become a cancer here, sending species after species into extinction and apparently forgetting that we as humans are every bit as vulnerable to extinction as any other species on Earth.’

One swallow does not a summer make. But you do not need to follow Postcards from the Anthropocene Age to know we’re on the same page. Our weather is switching on and off and once-in-a-lifetime events are common and becoming more probable. The lungs of our planet, and creator of our weather patterns, the Arctic is gone. A NASA study in 2019 verified that it had become a net emitter of greenhouse gases in the hottest recorded month in the history of our planet. Disasters are fine, as long as they are somewhere else. What Mystic Meg and NASA scientists is the same thing. We’re all connected.  When nothing matters, everything changes.

I’d put a tick beside Browne’s name for her prediction about the coronavirus outbreak.

‘In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatment.’

A cross against her name for

‘By 2013 we’re going to see an amazing development in the treatment of mental illness.’

Mental health problems have grown exponentially, especially, among the young. No cure involving ‘electromagnetic impulses’ as she believed. Her model is based on there is something lacking in the individual that a magic wand of technology can fix. Rather that societal pressures that also need a magic wand, but of a different sort that treats richness as an economic illness that  poisons politics and pollutes the wider ecosystem and stunts individual growth of the disadvantaged poor.  

‘We will have a very substantial drop in the crime rate’. She attributes this to satellite spy technology that monitors everyone. And the collection of a global database and an upgrade in forensic science that means there can be no secrets. We said much the same thing in the nineteen century with fingerprinting and in the twentieth century by DNA analysis. Twenty-first century fingerprinting will be of our eye iris.  Crimes such as femicide grow year on year, but are not picked up. Classified as crimes of passion. No eye in the sky can stop what goes on in our homes. And hard-core criminals aren’t stupid. They adapt new technologies and don’t think they’ll get caught as crime moves online.

‘The year 2020 will mark the end of the US Presidency.’ She might have a point there, with the Trump farrago and storming of Congress from the moron’s moron foot soldiers. The moron’s moron fulfils all her elements of a doomsday cult leader. Supported by the church vote, he too could be described as antichrist.

‘Any prophet/messiah who claims to be infallible is a liar.

Any prophet/messiah who claims that all those who criticise him or disagree with him are evil and doomed to God’s eternal punishment are a liar.

Any prophet/messiah who insists that no one cares about you or understand you as much as they do is a liar.

Any prophet/messiah who believes he or she is exempt from the laws of God and society and is entitled to divine immunity from consequences is a liar.

Any prophet/messiah whose power is based on fear, abuse and threats is a liar.    

The moron’s moron’s Presidency was based on fear, abuse and threat. The question that remains is is he too stupid to be the antichrist? But his ignorance and bullying didn’t end with him leaving office.

Browne therefore gets it totally wrong with her prophecy that the Presidency would end and the President would die in office of a heart attack (although Joe Biden might, soon). As she did with the idea Republicans would grow a backbone and gain some kind of moral legitimacy. The opposite has happened. For example, Browne’s belief in a  public health system and tax bonuses for those with careers in the arts, education…’ based on a ‘flat-rate’ tax is just hoo-ha. Thatcher introduced it here in Scotland, it was called the poll tax. A morally and economically bankrupt idea. You don’t need to be a prophet to tell which way a regressive taxation system works, but it helps if you’re an economist like Thomas Piketty.

‘Requirements for Senate candidates will be stringent and continuously monitored…The long-term effects of the reorganised government and closely examined body of lawmakers will be a return of accountability and public trust, and state government will follow no later than 2024…’  

 Everyone’s favourite prophet, Nostradamus, predicted the world would end around AD 3797, but his quatrains were of the time and of the event. For example,

The young lion will overcome the older one.

On the field of combat in single battle.

He will pierce his eyes through a golden cage.

Two wounds made one, then he dies a cruel death.

Nostradamus had to be careful what he said or wrote, because he could have been burned as a heretic and witch. Ambiguity was his friend. Context is everything. But Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, who ruled after a lance killed the king, during a jousting tournament, after passing through the ‘golden’ face mask of his helmet and piercing his eye, protected Nostradamus. The prophet predicted his own death with unerring accuracy.

In the year 1999 and seven months

The Great King of Terror will come from the sky.

He will bring back Genghis Khan  

Before and after War rules happily.

I have no idea what that means, but the reference to Genghis Khan could be a reference to Putin as the third antichrist, or maybe not. We see with our beliefs. Narcissistic sociopaths seems to be in the job description for the leaders of of doomsday cults. She lists some, such as Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, Heaven’s Gate; Jim Jones and the People’s Temple; David Koresh and The Branch Davidians; Sun Myung Moon and The Unification Church; Jeffrey Lundgren and the Reorganised Church of Latter Day Saints; Charles Manson and The Family. You could add L.Ron Hubbard and Scientology to that list. But then it gets a bit hard to stop. Donald J.Trump. Vladimir Putin. What about religions were someone says God spoke to them from a burning bush? Or was born to a Virgin, or went into a cave and came out with the word of god on his tongue, waiting to be transcribed? I quite like the story of Buddha under the Bodhi tree. But that’s an aside.

Biblical eschatology used to be like crosswords. Everybody was doing biblical calculus, trying to work out end of days. Isaac Newton, the father of modern physics, when he wasn’t working on how gravity behaves or light bends, drawing on biblical sources, concluded he world would end in 2060. I’ll be about 100 by then. Maybe I’m the antichrist.

Checklist:   I’ll be dead. [tick] or worse have dementia. But Browne claimed it would be cured by now.

Heaven in these kinds of books always ends up sounding like a shopping centre you don’t want to go to, but end up there anyway.

‘As long as Earth exists, our Other side will exist too.’

Aye, read on. Free download of this book before the world ends.

Storyville, Terror in the Jungle, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, Director Shan Nicholson, Executive Producer Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000d27r/storyville-jonestown-terror-in-the-jungle-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000d28j/storyville-jonestown-terror-in-the-jungle-episode-2

Most news stories start their pitch with the headline and in an inverted triangular shape begins to tell the rest of the story in terms of cause and effect. I’ll modify this a little here. Jim Jones was born in rural Indiana at the height of the Depression 1931. Phyllis Zimmerman who lived nearby remembered him as a strange kid. While other kids rode their bikes and played baseball, Jones liked to gather the other kids and hold ceremonies for roadkill. There were five churches nearby and Jones attended them all taking a bit of each from the holy rollers filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in voices to the hell-and-damnation crowd that believed everyone outside their church was doomed to eternal hellfire – which they richly deserved. While other kids played American soldiers when playing rat-a-tat war games, few if any wanted to play German or Nips. Jones preference was for being a German, he was fascinated with the way in which Hitler was able to manipulate the masses. That was the kind of power he craved.

If you were making notes for a novel and you’d ran with this scenario you could pretty much spit out a 100 000 word first draft in three months. One of the problems you’d face would be what kind of job would you give Jones? My first thought would be truck driver, perhaps with a bit of preaching on the side. Salesman would also be good. At a push I’d have went with schoolteacher in a run-down school, or janitor. Dogs and cats would go missing. He’d be a weirdo that tortured animals, but never got caught. He’s graduate to torturing and killing prostitutes and hitchhikers. Serial killer.

  The headline would not have been.  18 November 1978, 918 men, women and around 300 children lost their lives at Jonestown, established by the People’s Temple in northern Guyana victims of Fla-Vor-Ad (cheaper type of Kool Aid) laced with cyanide.  

They’d travelled to the capital, Georgetown, by plane in twos and threes to avoid detection by American authorities who they suspected were monitoring airports and then on by boat to the interior which took around twelve hours. Jonestown and The People’s Temple was surrounded by jungle, the nearest village was around twelve miles away.  

For fiction writers the question wouldn’t have been why did they kill themselves and their children? Or why did others do the killing work for Jim Jones. The history of genocide in China, Europe and Africa and Middle East follows much the same pattern. Milgram’s experiment on obedience and the Stanford Prison experiment pretty much shapes the story of how a cohort would react and here it is played out in real life.

Witnesses that escaped the cult of Jim Jones, including two of Jim Jones’s adopted sons, Jim Jones (Junior) and Stephan Jones, part of the so-called Rainbow family, made up of different ethnic groups offer insider accounts. Jim Jones liked his followers to call him ‘Father’. And his wife, to be called ‘Mother’. They tell us how it worked. I couldn’t help thinking of David Koresh, also a self-appointed Messiah, who preached the apocalypse. Didn’t allow his followers to have sex, but the Messiah slept with young girls. Took drugs. Endlessly lectured about the end of times. Appointed a Praetorian Guard to enforce discipline and punish those that tried to escape. All property was forfeit and given to the self-appointed Messiah. All labour was communal and given freely.

We also have outsider’s accounts from newspapermen who broke the story of Jim Jones cult in California to authors such as Jeff Guiann The Road to Jamestown. And reports from the FBI.

If it was a work of fiction Jim Jones might have been a politician with local success. He had the well-manicured look of a white man on the make and had the right blend of deceit, ruthlessness and narcissism to make it to the very top. All of these things would be labelled as charisma. Jim Jones had charisma.  A man that also stages his own death by gunshot wounds and miraculous resurrection wouldn’t quake at telling us a few hard truths and how he was going to fix it.

When Jim Jones found out the net was closing in and there was no fixing it, he decided his followers were going down with him. He’s already tested his Praetorian guard telling them he’d poisoned them to see how they’d react. They reacted the way he expected. They gave him their continued loyalty after he said he’d faked it. In the end there was no faking it. Those that didn’t want to die were helped along to meet their maker. The apocalypse did come for 1000 poor souls. To call Jim Jones a madman is to assume it won’t happen again. It has and it will. I was interested to hear one of his followers that had the strength to escape with her son validate what I said, say exactly that. We live in dangerous times. If I was writing fiction I’d say much the same thing. When fact and fiction cross X marks the problem. Modern cults aren’t restricted to churches they’ve moved mainstream.

#End of Days, Podcast on BBC5Live, presented by Chris Warburton, produced by Ciaran Tracey and music by Hex from the album, Earth.

end of days.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/search?filter=programmes&q=End%20Of%20Days&suggid=urn%3Abbc%3Aprogrammes%3Ap06qc33m

I asked my girlfriend if she’d heard of Waco. No, she hadn’t. That shocked me a bit. But I’m the reader that sometimes writes stuff in the family, nobody ever reads. And, of course, I’d heard of David Koresh, but I didn’t know that wasn’t his real name, he’d picked it for the biblical resonance in the same way Shirley Crabtree called himself Big Daddy and John Wayne called himself John Wayne. I’ve got my own beliefs about the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming here soon induced by global warming, but hopefully I’ll be dead by then, but I’ve no great belief in the great hear-ever-after. If it’s any consolation I know the dates the world never ended. 1874, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975. The Messianic Kingdom didn’t happen and the view from the Watchtower was they’d gotten it wrong, but they’d get it right the next time. It’s a blood sport. Us and Them.  I might even have lucked into Koresh’s association with the Seventh-Day Adventists and a splinter group of a splinter group, the Branch Davidians. There’s a kind of meme repeated in the podcast that sums up that general sense of knowing something, the wackos from Waco. That ties in with my worldview of politics in America and the moron’s moron being elected President of the United States, or the disunited States, would be more appropriate tag. Waco is in Texas and is the kind of place revivalist preachers like Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry flourished in real life and where the soft drink Sergeant Pepper was borne for those that didn’t like moonshine whisky.

God’s not alone, with a slew of books and films about the End of Days and Armageddon. Tara Westover’s Educated, for example, begins with Tara, aged seven, ‘in a little patch of Idaho’ with no birth certificate and no schooling, watching her Mormon father burying rifles and preparing for The Day of Abomination and asking God for his help in the coming shoot-out with the Feds who were coming to get them. Someone is always coming to get you at the End of Days.

Thirty people from London, Manchester and Nottingham at Waco, of mainly African-Caribbean origin,  were inside the compound at Mount Carmel. Twenty-six of the seventy-two men, women and children that died came from Britain and had followed David Koresh to their deaths.  He was labelled leader of a death cult and a false prophet by security forces. And the FBI coordinated siege which lasted fifty-one days and ended in tragedy on the 19th April 1993 was called appropriately enough by the authorities ‘Showtime’.

Chris Warburton and producer Ciaran Tracey take a more measured approach than Showtime. Their aim was almost anthropological to find out who these British citizens were, where they lived and what they worked at and how they’d come into contact with David Koresh and decided to give up their lives and follow him back to Waco. I don’t need to tell you anymore. Taste and see.