Daily Briefing: PROFESSOR NORMAN COHN: MILLENNIALISM EXPLAINED (June 12,2020)

In Memory of Ambassador Yitzchak Mayer

The CIJR mourns the death of Ambassador Yitzchak Mayer, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg in the early 90’s, and later as ambassador to Switzerland, passed away on June 10, 2020, and Consul General in Montreal (1980-1983.) Educator, diplomat, commentator, and author, he was a man of diverse interests and far-reaching accomplishments, especially in the field of education. For eighteen years, he was Director of the Yemin Orde Youth Village, a home, school, and safe haven for immigrant and at-risk teens, where he developed a pedagogical approach that embraced Jewish tradition, humanism, and the arts. Later, he served in prominent positions within key educational institutions. Ambassador Mayer began his diplomatic career in 1979 as Israel’s Consul General in Zurich. He went on to serve as Israel’s Consul General in Montreal Israel’s Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg (1991-1995), and its Ambassador to Switzerland (1997-2000).  Our deepest condolences to the family. May his memory be forever blessed.”

 

A photograph of the English historian. (Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

Podcast: Gary Saul Morson on “Leninthink”:  Gary Saul Morson, Tikvah, June 10, 2020 — Discussions about “cancel culture,” the practice of stigmatizing and ostracizing a person or institution deemed to have transgressed political correctness, have become ubiquitous in the United States. From the campus to the boardroom to the newsroom, the cost of having ever said or thought the wrong thing can now put one’s reputation and livelihood at risk.

 

Professor Norman CohnThe Independent, Sept. 29, 2007


The Millennia-Old History of the Apocalypse:  Anthony Grafton, The New Republic, July 15, 2014


The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty‐First Century – By Gordon Lynch: Graham Reside, Wiley Online Library, Apr. 19, 2019


Millennialism: Where Progressivism and Jihad Meet:  Machla Abramovitz, Mishpacha Magazine, Nov. 7, 2016

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Professor Norman Cohn
The Independent, Sept. 29, 2007

Norman Cohn wrote three great histories, each thematically related to the other. His first book, The Pursuit of the Millennium (1957), showed how apocalyptic beliefs fuelled medieval heresies and, in the 20th century, Nazi and Communist orthodoxies. His second, Warrant for Genocide (1967), exposed that arsenal for anti-Semites The Protocol of the Elders of Zion for the forgery that it was. His third, Europe’s Inner Demons (1976), showed how the idea of the satanic pact was at the heart of the European witch-craze. In 1948 the great Annales scholar Lucien Febvre had written his (then) startling essay, “Witchcraft: nonsense or a mental revolution?” Cohn’s published writings would provide the most satisfying answer to that question.

But first the nonsense had to be got out of the way. Not just the history – Nazi reliance on a dodgy document. But the historiography: credulous readers’ reliance on Margaret Murray’s fiction of witchcraft as Christianity’s ancient religious rival. Cohn, the most modest and gentle of men, swept her 1921 romance The Witch-Cult in Western Europe into the dustbin. His weapons were, as in all his inquiries, patience, scrupulous testing of evidence and empathy into minds of very different cultures, all backed with formidable linguistic skills.

It was as a linguist, not a historian, that he had begun his academic career. The son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Cohn had graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a First in Modern Languages. Wartime service in the Intelligence Corps may have reinforced his interest in the persecutors and the persecuted and ultimately in the ambition to write their history.

From 1946 until 1951, he was Lecturer in French at Glasgow University, then Professor of French at Magee University College in Londonderry from 1951 to 1960, and then at King’s College, Durham until 1963. That year he was appointed Director of the Columbus Centre for Studies of Persecution and Genocide at Sussex University of Sussex. In 1973 he became its Astor-Wolfson Professor of History (Emeritus in 1980). He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1978. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The Millennia-Old History of the Apocalypse
Anthony Grafton
The New Republic, July 15, 2014

Albrecht Durer knew the end was coming as surely as any bearded sandwich man or pony-tailed television producer knows it now. True, he could not tell exactly when the skies would open, Antichrist would appear, stars would fall, mountains would collapse, or the Four Horsemen would ride. But the Revelation of Saint John—a text which he not only knew intimately, but illustrated with a magnificent and frightening series of woodcuts—taught him that this scarifying sequence of events would certainly unfold someday. History would reach its climax and its end.

Visions of the future transformation of the heavens and the earth haunted this master of the precise representation of the here and now. He saw them not only while he was awake and reading the Bible, but even when he slept, in a dream—as he recorded in a note—of “great waters” that “fell from heaven,” first with “an equal slowness” and then “with such swiftness, with wind and roaring, and I was so sore afraid that when I awoke my whole body trembled. … So when I arose in the morning I painted it above here as I saw it. God turns all things to the best.”

Like most of his contemporaries, Durer did not confine himself to the New Testament when he looked for ways to predict the date of the celestial and terrestrial revolutions that he awaited. His dream of a flood was prompted not by the sermons of dour theologians on the Book of Revelation, but by the popular pamphlets known as almanacs and prognostications, which peddlers hawked in the streets and squares of every European city. The authors of these crudely illustrated little books on bad paper, the distant ancestors of the newspaper, noted that a dangerous conjunction of the planets would take place in Pisces in 1524. Theological and historical pessimists among them—then as now, the majority—naturally predicted that this celestial sign heralded a second Flood.

Dozens of booklets repeated the prediction, mingling precise details of planetary positions with a threatening, prophetic language of threat and hope. In parts of Italy, people fled the cities for high ground—only to return, sheepishly, when no flood took place. Durer not only read such books and broadsheets, he also helped to produce them: One of his most famous woodcuts illustrated the disastrous planetary conjunction which had, supposedly, brought the new disease of syphilis into being. .… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty‐First Century – By Gordon Lynch
Graham Reside
Wiley Online Library
, Apr. 19, 2019

The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty‐First Century , Lynch, Gordon , London : I.B. Taurus , 2007 ( ISBN : 9781845114145 ), 218 pp., Hb $85.00, Pb $30.00

Introduction

Gordon Lynch’s The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty‐First Century is an important, timely, and well‐crafted book. In it, Professor Lynch takes his readers through a careful description and analysis of what he terms the ‘progressive milieu’ and its attendant progressive spirituality. In doing so, he provides an important contribution to the study of religion in its modern forms.

For many Americans – indeed, for many around the world – Barack Obama’s victory in the last election points to the possibility for a new progressive era. Indeed, one of the things that was easily lost in the Jeremiah Wright controversy was that, despite the looping 30 second YouTube clip that depicted the President’s pastor as a raving, America‐hating lunatic, the new President’s pastor of 20 years was, first and foremost, a theological progressive.

Reverend Wright (now retired) was a pastor in the United Church of Christ, a denomination noted for its progressive stances on issues ranging from sexuality to foreign affairs. The point missed amidst the smokescreen of race and jingoism is the fact that President Obama’s theological imagination has been forged in a progressive furnace. Thus, observers of American religion have wondered if the election of President Obama represents a change in religion as well as politics. Certainly, for some on the progressive side of the theological spectrum, the advent of the Obama age holds out the prospect for their own emergence onto the public stage. And there is some feeling of vindication, as progressive values have been all but pushed off the agenda by the dominance of the Religious Right, at least since Ronald Reagan. The reemergence of evangelicalism has been a notable phenomenon over the past generation, but religious progressives have not gone away, and there is some recent polling data to suggest that Americans are more progressive than many conservatives would like to admit.1

The progressive movement may well be on the move again. So Professor Lynch’s book, which sets out to map the contours of progressive spirituality today, is especially timely. However, the book’s task is not an easy one, as Professor Lynch readily admits, because he is not describing an organization or even a religious movement. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]
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Millennialism: Where Progressivism and Jihad Meet
Machla Abramovitz
Mishpacha Magazine, Nov. 7, 2016

They believe in the coming of a messianic epoch, one in which humanity will unite and peace and justice will reign. Their enemies are conservatives and traditionalists, or those who fail to comprehend the arc of history and humanity’s final destiny.

No, they’re not an apocalyptic cult hatching a plot in a South American jungle hideout, but modern progressives who subscribe to the idea of “millennialism.”

Richard Landes, a former professor of Medieval Studies at Boston University, and currently the senior fellow with the Center of International Communication at Bar Ilan University, is one of their leading critics. For decades, Landes has been studying the phenomenon of millennialism, or the belief that a messianic era of justice, peace and abundance is coming soon, often preceded by a massive disruptive (apocalyptic) event. Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump and the protests that have exploded nationwide, the world is witness to many expressions of millennialism, and, as is common, to disappointed expectations. The arc of history that bends towards justice has lurched into reverse.

“Those who are protesting his election are not only criticizing Trump, but his supporters, who they dismiss as undereducated ‘deplorables’ who love their guns and their religion,” says Landes, who came to observant Judaism as an adult. “[To their way of thinking, Trump supporters] are mere offshoots of the Middle Ages. Whereas Hillary Clinton supporters have advanced beyond that.” Messianic progressives pursue a lofty, civilizational evolution towards a redemptive global cosmopolitanism.

Were it only an academic meme, this kind of millennialism wouldn’t much concern the Jewish community. But in the 21st century, Western messianic progressives have joined their fellow millennial dreamers, global Jihadis, and embraced a common apocalyptic narrative with an ultimate enemy – Israel.

“BDS is essentially a cognitive war (cogwar) campaign of Caliphaters — active (apocalyptic) millennialists who believe that Islam will dominate the world, and who consider the destruction of Israel as a strategic goal on the path to a global caliphate.  They have managed to team up with the global progressive left, who have been duped into thinking that Israel is the cause of the world’s woes,” said Landes, who recently delivered the keynote address at the Montreal-based Canadian Institute of Jewish Research’s (CIJR) conference on “BDS and the Campus Delegitimization of Israel.”

“That’s the folly of the progressives: to side with the most regressive messianic movement on the planet against one of the most progressive countries in the world. Morally speaking, it’s just breathtaking.”

Landes is perhaps best known as the man who helped expose the al Durah hoax and coined the term “Pallywood” (Palestinian Hollywood). At the start of the second intifada, a young Palestinian named Mohammed al Durah was allegedly shot to death by the Israeli army and died in his father’s arms. His death throes were captured by France 2 TV and became an iconic image of Palestinian victimhood. “This image represented the moment when Islamic apocalyptic discourse about the genocidal Israelis who intentionally kill Palestinian children, was mainstreamed in the Western media,” says Landes, who also serves as the chairman of the council of scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. This sentiment was all the more horrendous given that Mohammad’s death was a fake. When I looked into it, I was amazed by the widespread use of footage staged by Palestinians, run as news by Western journalists. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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FOR FURTHER REFERENCE:

Apocolypticsm Explained:  The Crusades:  Norman Cohn, PBS, Frontline — In November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered a famous sermon at the Council of Clermont in which he called for Christians to unite and recapture the city of Jerusalem from Muslims, inciting the First Crusade.

The Book that Changed My Life John Gray, New Statesman, Feb. 5, 2009 — t is more than 40 years since I first read Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium. Published in 1957, the book deals with millenarian religious movements in late medieval and early modern Europe, but as Cohn makes clear, the millenarian mentality did not end with the waning of religion – 20th-century secular totalitarian movements exhibited similar patterns of thinking.

Millennialism and the Progressive Movement Gary North, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1996 — Murray Rothbard was seriously interested in a remarkably large array of topics, one of them being the effects of rival eschatological views during the Progressive era.

What to Know About the Origins of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in Politics, From the French Revolution to the 2020 Presidential Race: Madeleine Carlisle, Time, Sept. 14, 2020 — On Thursday night, when 10 Democratic presidential primary candidates grace a Houston stage to debate the future of their party, they’ll all be hoping to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

The Predicament of Diaspora And Millennial Islam: Reflections In The Aftermath Of September 11: Pnina Werbner, SSRC, 2011 — One intellectual response to September 11 has been an outpouring of scholarly commentaries, each in turn suggesting an interpretation of September 11 from a particular personal and disciplinary angle.
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This week’s French-language briefing is titled:  Communiqué:Le rôle de la Vallée du Jourdain dans le concept de frontières défendables: théorie et pratique