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The inclusion of a group, movement, spirituality, centre, or organisation on this website does not imply any kind of value judgement; every group which falls within our intentionally broad area of interest and comes to our attention is added to our database. However, only a small number of the groups and organisations on our database appear on this website.
Ramdev was born with the name Ram Krishna Yadav and is native to the Indian state of Haryana.
After receiving a basic state schooling, he studied Sanskrit scriptures and yoga in a gurukul (ashram school). It has been reported that Ramdev was paralytic as a child and was cured by the practice of yoga; the only remnant of his early disability is his distinctive, slightly smaller left eye. He has reported that he meditated for five years in the Himalayas in his 20's before taking monastic vows in 1995 under Swami Shanker Dev Ji Maharaj at Kripalu Bagh Ashram.
Rather than focusing on specific beliefs, Ramdev has concentrated on practical teachings aimed at achieving better health and well‐being through traditional Indian heritage. In particular, Ramdev promotes seven discrete prānāyām practices to be practised in order, for short periods of time. Ramdev has developed his own instructions, simplifying and clarifying a number of traditional breathing exercises, and gives very specific details about the number of repetitions or the duration of practice necessary to deliver optimal benefits from each exercise.
The first two exercises are called Bhastrikā and Kapāl Bhāti prā āyām and are recommended to be practised for between 2 and 5 minutes for Bhastrikā and 5‐30 minutes for Kapāl Bhāti. Following this are Bāhaya, Anulom Vilom, Bhrāmarī, Udgēth (chanting Om) and Pranav prānāyām. A full practice of all the exercises could take less than an hour a day, and perhaps considerably less time depending on individual requirements and available time. Ramdev’s promotional and explanatory materials claim numerous specific medical benefits attributable to each specific exercise. Supporters of Ramdev’s method emphasise the method’s simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness in making practical improvements in health and well-being.
Generally known as the Brahma Kumaris the movement’s official title is The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU).
Generally known as the Brahma Kumaris the movement’s official title is The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU). Kumari is usually translated as ‘daughter’, reflecting the emphasis placed on the leadership of women in the organisation.
The Brahma Kumaris often advertise themselves under their main practical teaching, Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga does not involve mantras or breathing techniques or special postures, but merely calming one's mind by ‘contacting the supreme soul’ (represented as a point of light). Practitioners are encouraged to sit quietly for 10-20 minutes, with eyes open, gazing gently outward. The practitioner is then directed towards withdrawing attention from the senses and observing the passage of thoughts. Then, a positive thought is introduced, e.g. ‘I am a peaceful soul,’ and attention is brought back to this thought while neutrally observing other passing thoughts. The meditation is ended with a few moments of mental ‘silence’ with the eyes closed. The objective of all BK meditation is to recognise the self not as a body but as a soul. The BKs teach that anyone, whatever their religion, can follow this practise.
The Branch Davidians are an indirect splinter group of the Seventh‐day Adventist Church (SDA) whose members believe in the imminent return of Jesus and that living prophets can interpret God’s Word in the Bible.
The Branch Davidians trace their roots to the work of Victor Houteff (1885‐1955), who claimed unique insights into the Book of Revelation, and who founded the General Association of the Davidian Seventh‐day Adventists. In 1935, Houteff established the Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas. This property was sold by the group after his death and a new property purchased outside of the city of Waco also named Mount Carmel. The General Association of Branch Davidian Seventh‐day Adventists was founded by Benjamin Roden (1902‐1978), a follower of Houteff, after Houteff’s death in 1955. David Koresh (then called Vernon Howell) (1959‐1993) joined the Branch Davidians in 1981, becoming leader of the core group of Branch Davidians by 1984. Koresh claimed to be the son of God, the Christ for the Last Days and the Lamb of Revelation.
David Koresh and the Branch Davidians are now synonymous with the events that unfolded at the Mount Carmel Centre between February and April 1993. On 28 February, a raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) led to the deaths of six Branch Davidians and four ATF agents. There then followed a 51‐day siege and the eventual assault of the residence by the FBI on 19 April. The tank and CS gas assault culminated in a fire in which 76 Branch Davidian members died: 53 adults and 23 children.
Christian Zionism is a millenarian movement that draws adherents from different denominations and persuasions within the Christian faith.
It is primarily made up of those who hold a Protestant evangelical perspective. Zionism is broadly understood as the belief that the Jewish people have a right to return to Israel. Christian Zionism is a belief in the Jewish right of return, based upon the Old Testament covenant made by God with Abraham.
The term ‘Christian Zionist’ was first used by Theodor Herzl at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 (Hedding 2010). The most commonly quoted bible verse relating to this covenant is Genesis 12:3. God tells Abraham “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed”.
The Church of Almighty God, a Chinese millenarian movement, is also known as Eastern Lightning. This name was originally given to the group by outside observers.
It came to be accepted by the movement, and refers to a passage in Matthew 24:27: “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” This “lighting that comes from the east”, according to the Church, is Jesus Christ returning as Almighty God, from a country in the east, China, to inaugurate the third age of humanity.
While its theology is certainly different from the doctrines of traditional Christian churches, American scholar Holly Folk believes it is one among several new contemporaneous “authentic Christian traditions”, “and its intellectual and theological lineage within Christianity is very rich” (Folk 2018).
The basic beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Church, known popularly as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church) can be summed up in its 13 Articles of Faith, the first of which states that members believe in God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
Mormonism shares with other Christian religions the notion that the greatest virtues are love of God and of one’s fellow human beings, but it differs from most expressions of Christianity in that Mormons believe in a subsequent revelation, considered to be another testament of Christ, called the Book of Mormon. This was revealed by God and translated by their founder, Joseph Smith (1805-1844). Many of their beliefs are based on the personal revelation to Smith, which is continued in each of the lives of members of the Church. God has communicated with humans and continues to communicate with them.
The Church situates North America as the focus of its millennial expectations. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be centred in the state of Utah, where the Church now has its headquarters. However, the Church has spread to 182 countries worldwide. As of the end of 2016, membership according to the Church’s own figures was 15.9 million baptised members. It is one of the fastest growing religions, thanks to active missionary efforts and a high birth rate among its members. Its growth is particularly strong in Latin America, where the greatest number of members now reside.
In the 21st century, new forms of millenarianism emerge from science rather than religion. At first this may seem surprising since scientists are not given to eschatological speculation.
However, the use of mathematical models and precise predictions is important in millenarianism. The day and the hour of the end can be calculated. When estimating what will happen in the near and distant future, scientific prediction is a form of prophecy. Scientific predictions concerning what will happen in hundreds and thousands of years into the future has established “scientific millenarianism” in which “millenarianism now possesses bona fide scientific components” (Weinberg 1999: 936).
Of all the scientific predictions of the end of the world, the most urgent is anthropogenic climate change. The burning of fossil fuels has been the basis of the industrial economy since the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century. The combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas produces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which are released into the atmosphere, trapping heat and warming the planet. Global temperatures have already risen 0.56 ℃ in the past hundred years and they are forecast to rise a further 4-6 ℃ above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (Romm 2016: xv).
Rising temperatures, deforestation, and human activity are also leading to a catastrophic loss of biodiversity that some scientists are calling the “sixth mass extinction event” (Kolbert 2014). The well-documented disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is contributing to a sea-level rise of between 80ft and 260ft. This has occurred a hundred years sooner than initial scientific estimates. It is close to an irreversible tipping point after which total collapse would be inevitable (Romm 2016: xv). This in turn causes an increase in extreme weather events such as storm surges, forest fires, and heat waves. Since the majority of greenhouse gases are absorbed into the oceans rather than the atmosphere, there is also the ongoing problem of ocean acidification. Carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater to create carbonic acid, killing marine life and contributing to the bleaching of coral reefs (Romm 2016: 17-18). Another ‘feedback loop’ occurring is the melting of the Arctic permafrost, which could release 1.8 trillion tonnes of methane into the atmosphere rapidly and irreversibly increasing the rate of global warming (ibid: 80-84).
These alarming predictions outline an apocalyptic scenario unfolding right now. The end of the world is no longer near, it is here. It was brought on by human, not divine, intervention. The human impact on the Earth’s systems has led academics to label the current geological age the Anthropocene. In some models, the Anthropocene is also the apocalypse. This has brought a range of questions such as have humans doomed themselves? Who will save the world? Should the world be saved?
The origins of the Islamic State – also known more widely as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – can be traced back to the US‐led military invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The origins of the Islamic State – also known more widely as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – can be traced back to the US-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its original incarnation, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), grew within a milieu of ideologically diverse militant groups that opposed the US and the post-2003 US-backed Iraqi administration.
Like many other militant Muslim groups, often generalised as ‘jihadist’, the Islamic State rejects existing notions of the nation-state in favour of what it defines as the ultimate Islamic polity – the caliphate. What distinguishes the Islamic state from these other groups, alongside its unprecedented use of violence, is its claim to have already established this caliphate. The Islamic State is therefore a religiously motivated, insurrectionary movement that also behaves like a state, with its own bureaucracy, geographical territory, economy and population. Underlining its military strategy and state-building ambitions, however, is a distinctive brand of Islamic apocalypticism.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement, has been one of the more visible minority religions in the West.
Followers, often dressed in saffron robes, weave through the streets near their temples dancing, chanting and making music in devotion to God in the form of Krishna. Through chanting, devotees hope to bring a constant consciousness of God into all aspects of their lives.
The founder of ISKCON, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), began a new movement by encouraging those outside India to join a form of devotion developed in medieval India. ISKCON also acts as a Hindu revivalist movement within India.
The Neturei Karta (“Guardians of the City” in Aramaic) is a relatively small movement within the milieu of anti‐Zionist haredim (singular: haredi) or strictly Orthodox Jews.
Although the millenarian idea that Zion – one of the Hebrew Bible’s names for Jerusalem – would be restored to the Jewish people is deeply ingrained in Jewish thought, the vast majority of religious Jews opposed the Zionist movement when it emerged in the late nineteenth century.
They believed that the Jews would only return to their promised land by divine auspices and not through human intervention to “force the end”, which they considered sinful. The Neturei Karta was born within this backdrop of religious anti‐Zionism. Founded in 1938, Jerusalem, it is controversial for its extreme opposition to the existence of the state of Israel, including by supporting the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).
It is infamous for making common cause with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a notable Holocaust denier, and Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam – an African American religious movement – who has often been accused of anti‐Semitism. Although usually dismissed as a fringe phenomenon, the Neturei Karta’s beliefs provide a valuable perspective on the notion of millenarianism within Judaism and how this influences intra‐Jewish politics.
Peoples Temple (sometimes spelt People’s Temple) was a Christian movement founded by Jim Jones.
It combined elements of Pentecostalism with socialist and multiracial utopianism and millennialism. At the peak of its membership it had around 5000 members across a number of churches in California. In the late 1970s, Jones and members moved to the jungle of Guyana to establish an agricultural project which became known as Jonestown.
The movement is infamous for the events which unfolded there in November 1978: the murder of a US congressman and four other people, followed by the mass murder and suicide of over 900 residents of Jonestown, a third of them children under 18. The word Jonestown has become synonymous with utopian millennial movements and violence.
The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (henceforth PBCC), also known as the Exclusive Brethren, is a branch of the wider Brethren movement, a group of evangelical Protestants whose origins can be traced to a series of interrelated groups of Christians who seceded from various mainline Christian denominations in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The Brethren believe in the imminent return of Christ, a form of progressive revelation mediated through the ministry of a succession of spiritual leaders beginning with John Nelson Darby (1800‐1882), and a strict adherence to the principle of ‘separation from evil’.
They trace their roots to the work of John Nelson Darby, an itinerant evangelist and Biblical interpreter whose understanding of eschatology and ecclesiology form the basis of much modern dispensationalism and Christian fundamentalism. While the exclusive wing of the wider Brethren movement has been prone to frequent schism, the PBCC holds that Darby has been followed by an unbroken succession of recognised spiritual leaders including Frederick Edward Raven (1837‐1903); James Taylor Senior (1870‐1953); James Taylor Junior (1899‐ 1970); James Harvey Symington (1913‐1987); and John Stephen Hales (1922‐2002). The current recognised leader is Australian accountant and businessman Bruce David Hales (1953‐).
While firmly situated within an evangelical Protestant milieu, the PBCC has attracted some negative attention since the late 1950s, when the American‐based leader James Taylor Junior sought to tighten communal boundaries in the wake of what Brethren viewed as an increasingly permissive society. Since that time the Brethren have been subject to frequent bouts of media attention.
Rastafari originated in the 1930s in Jamaica. Aspects of the movement are both messianic and millenarian.
The Ethiopian King, Haile Selassie I (1892‐1975), is identified by Rastas as the messiah, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the redeemer of God’s chosen people. In the early days of the movement, black people were identified as God’s chosen people who would be saved because they were special to God; it was they who, as the ‘true’ Israelites referred to in the Bible, were in a covenant relationship with God.
Rastafari can be seen as a response to the history of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. The early Rastafari preachers vehemently rejected white colonial society and European Protestantism as oppressive. Jamaica, 92 per cent of whose population were descendants of the African slave trade, remained part of the British Empire until 1962, and early 20th century social order continued to treat black people as second-class citizens.
Millenarianism in Rastafari is expressed through the concept of repatriation, with the return to Africa being conceived of in physical, spiritual, and psychological terms. The descendants of those who were forcibly taken as slaves continued to live in exile in Babylon, the biblical symbol for white, colonial society or, more generally, for anything identified as evil or oppressive. Africa, often referred to simply as ‘Ethiopia’ as the biblical term for Africa, is identified as the Promised Land, also called Zion. Haile Selassie I, in his role as messiah, would come to save his people in Jamaica, which in the early movement was identified with hell. The saved will sail to the Promised Land of Africa in seven miles of ships, leaving darkness and hellfire, with Babylon being destroyed in its wake.