Monday, January 30, 2006

Cults of the 1870's, and Traditional "Hell"


A bunch of little groups originated in the United States in the 1870's. They were collectively known as "Second Adventists." For their major teaching was the "Second Advent" (an old word for "coming") of Jesus Christ to our planet. Many believed that Jesus would come, bring Armageddon, murder all the "bad guys," and create a perfect "new world" full of the believers-- the "good guys," or members of the cults.

The glorious and bloody "end" was actually predicted by one group, called the Millerites, for the month of October 1844, based on "Bible-chronology." When nothing happened then, the date was changed. (What else could they do?) So, the leaders kept pushing the date, to 1845, then, further. A group called the Russelites (who later evolved into the Jehovah's Witnesses) predicted the "end" for October 1874. When that did not work out, the date for Armageddon was moved to 1914. Since that was still forty years in the future, it was a "safe" prediction. (Plenty of room to "fudge.") Of course, all these dates were inaccurate. But, since World War 1 did break out in 1914, a lot of Russel's followers seemed to take a "close enough" attitude, and the cult thrived, despite its false prophecies.

These small groups-- Second Adventists, Russelites, Millerites, Wilburites, and Campbellites, all were breathlessly anticipating the "end" of civilization at any minute! Ellen G. White felt, like the other false "prophets" of this time, that she had received information directly from God. In time, this resulted in a book, called The Great Controversy. This contained the basic teachings of the cultgroup that was to evolve into the Seventh-Day Adventists. A farmer named Joe Smith also believed that he had received "revelations" directly from God, and wrote The Book of Mormon. Russel wrote Studies in the Scriptures, which actually had little to do with either true study or with the Scriptures.

These people loved to be as radical as possible. And, despite their frailties and sometimes foolishness, some of them did make some sense. For example, it occurred to both White and Russel that God's Love prevented the absurdity of a literal and "everlasting hellfire." This concept is nowhere clearly taught in the Bible; the Scriptures do not identify a literal place where God burns his children forever. The entire idea was a classic of monstrous and Loveless mythology. Since the nineteenth century, in fact, most Christians see "hell" as symbolic. To the mystic, for example, "hell" is the state of mind separate from Love-- an illusion that torments.

The only reference to this psychotic idea in the Bible is the "lake of fire" of Revelation. And everything in Revelation is highly symbolic, nothing literal. Since a "lake" is usually associated with water, this became a symbol of the combination of the two elements-- water and fire. This is the same symbolism exactly as that of the Seal of Solomon (usually misidentified as the "Star of David"). Two triangles interlace, creating a six-pointed star. The upward-pointing triangle represents fire, and the downward-pointing triangle represents water.

This is the "conjunction of opposites," or conjunctio oppositorum mentioned by Carl Jung. In archetypal language, it symbolizes the coming-together of opposites, the union of yin and yang. For, in cosmic Mind, balance is found only after these "opposites" are united, both as expressions of the One. Then, their "opposition" disappears. In transcendental consciousness, opposites are one.

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