Apocalypse Not

Cleis Press and Viva Editions

Contact: Brenda Knight




It’s Time to Put the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Out to Pasture

Seemingly from the beginning of time people have been obsessed with the end of time. APOCALYPSE NOT: Everything You Know about 2012, Nostradamus and the Rapture Is Wrong, publishing by Viva Editions in November, is a survey of three millennia of apocalyptic prophecies and the failed dreams and nightmares that have clustered around them. It challenges the entire body of contemporary apocalyptic belief, religious and secular, and traces today’s apocalyptic belief systems back across history.

People nowadays who believe in the Rapture or 2012 talk as though nobody has ever predicted the end of the world before. Award-winning futurist John Michael Greer pinpoints the “apocalypse meme” to its origins between 1500 and 1200 BCE and follows it up to the present. He shows just what’s happened to all of those who’ve bought into the notion that the world as we know it is going to disappear sometime soon and give way to a new world.

Among the contemporary beliefs highlighted in APOCALYPSE NOT:

• Many Americans were convinced that on May 21, 2011, the Rapture would come and every truly devout Protestant Christian would suddenly disappear from the face of the earth, going to meet Jesus in the clouds. Convinced there was a miscalculation of God’s secret message, believers then expected to be delivered on October 21, 2011, and were let down a second time.

• Greer reveals the shared historical roots that connect today’s Rapture theology with the prophecies of Karl Marx.

• Orthodox Jews have waited for the appearance of the Messiah since the time of King Solomon.

• Many Hindus eagerly anticipate the birth of Kalki, the next avatar of the great Vishnu.

• Buddhists across central Asia long for the appearance of the great Rigden Jyepo, who will vanquish the foes of the Buddhist Dharma.

• Tech-savvy Extropians dream of the Singularity, when computers of superhuman intelligence will abolish all limits to progress. The most prominent proponent of the Singularity is Ray Kurzweil, who has had significant influence on Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

By turns tragic and uproariously funny, APOCALYPSE NOT will help readers make sense of the Rapture that didn’t happen on May 21, the Mayan calendar that isn’t really Mayan and entire spectrum of the last three thousand years of people who thought, like the current crop of apocalypse fans, that they knew when the world was going to end.

JOHN MICHAEL GREER is the author of twenty-four books in the fields of alternative spirituality and future studies, including the award-winning The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, and Secrets of the Lost Symbol, which has been translated into eight languages. He is also the author of a popular weekly blog on the future, The Archdruid Report, http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/. Born and raised in Washington State, he now lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the Appalachians, with his wife.

APOCALYPSE NOT: Everything You Know About 2012, Nostradamus and the Rapture is Wrong

by John Michael Greer

$15.95, trade paperback original

216 pages, 5” x 8”

ISBN: 978-1-936740-00-0

Publishing November 1, 2011

Publicity contact: Brenda Knight, 510/845-8000 and bknight@cleispress.com

Distributed by Publishers Group West


Questions and Answers from John Michael Greer, author of

APOCALYPSE NOT: Everything You Know About 2012, Nostradamus and the Rapture is Wrong


1. Is the world going to come to an end on December 21, 2012?

There’s zero reason to think that it will.  (pp. 160-3)

2. Didn’t the ancient Mayans predict that something big would happen on that date?

No. They didn’t say anything of the kind. (pp. 154-157)

3. So if the Mayans didn’t come up with the end of the world prediction, who did?

Terence McKenna and Jose Arguelles, two American pop culture savants. (pp. 158-160)

4. Your book seems to be saying that believers in 2012 are making a mistake that a lot of other people have made down through the years.  Could you expand on that?

The notion that history as we know it is going to come to a screeching halt, and be replaced with whatever our fondest daydreams happen to be, has been a very common belief for the last 3000 years or so; the 2012 prophecy is just the latest excuse on which that belief has been pinned. (pp. xiv-xvii)

5. Is the Second Coming of Christ just another version of the same thing?

Exactly. (pp. 126-130)

6. And the Singularity, is that another example?

Right again. The Singularity—when computer scientists such as Ray Kurzweil insist that super-intelligent computers are going to solve all humanity’s problems, if they don’t wipe us out first—is a rehash of the same apocalyptic thinking in science fiction drag.  (pp. 144-5)

7. Where do you think this whole apocalypse thing comes from?

As far as anybody knows, it was invented by the Iranian prophet Zarathustra around 1300 BCE. (pp. 14-18)

8. How did it get from there to become so popular?

The Jewish people picked it up from the Persians at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, and the two big religions that spun off from Judaism, Christianity and Islam, spread it all over the globe. (pp. 25-51).

9. So the Jewish people have had apocalyptic beliefs longer than almost anybody else. How’s that been working for them?

Very poorly; apocalyptic beliefs have been behind some of the biggest catastrophes the Jewish people have suffered. (pp. 44-50)

10. This apocalyptic stuff got hardwired into Christianity from the beginning, didn’t it?

Nobody knows for sure. Jesus and John of Patmos, the author of the Book of Revelations, both made prophecies of imminent disaster, but a good case can be made that they were talking about the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, on the one hand, and the decline and fall of the Roman Empire on the other. So all of Christian apocalyptic belief may be based on misunderstandings. (pp. 53-58)

11. One way or another, though, Christians started waiting for the Rapture pretty quickly, didn’t they?

No. There were Christian apocalyptic beliefs going back a very long way, but the Rapture was invented by an Irish minister, John Nelson Darby, in the middle of the 19th century. Before then there were a lot of other schemes for finding apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible; the only thing they had in common was that they all resulted in false predictions. (pp. 60-81).

12. So Harold Camping, the controversial Christian broadcaster, is following in a very old tradition, isn’t he?

Three thousand years and counting. Deciding that you simply got the date wrong, and announcing a new date when the old one doesn’t work, is nearly as old. (pp. 61-2).

13. What about the Antichrist? Is he a new addition, or part of the original cast?

He’s been part of Christian apocalyptic belief for nearly 2000 years, and an astonishing range of people have been accused of being the Antichrist over that time period. (pp. 63-66 and 130-4)

14.  Didn’t the apocalypse thing lose a lot of its force when religion started to decline in popularity?

Not at all. People just dressed up the old beliefs in new, supposedly secular costumes. (pp. 85-113).

15. Can you give me an example of that?

Sure. Marxism is a classic apocalyptic myth that pretends to be secular. (pp. 107-112)

16. Why does it appeal so powerfully to so many people?

The apocalypse myth is all about having the universe solve all your problems via a miracle, so you don’t have to.  (pp. 165-9)

17. What’s the funniest thing you encountered while researching this book?

The predictions of Charles Fourier, a French philosopher who believed that once enough people believed in his philosophy, the seas would turn to lemonade.  (pp. 102-5).

18. What’s the saddest?

The mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult in 1997. (p. 141)

19. What do you think will happen after December 21, 2012 comes and goes?

Believers in the prophecy will imitate Harold Camping and go looking for another date for the world to end. (p. 163)

20. What would you say to somebody who really believes that the world will end on that date?

I’d ask him if he was still putting money into his retirement accounts. A lot of people who think they believe in the end of the world don’t actually let that belief affect their lives—which poses some very hard questions about the nature of apocalyptic belief itself. (pp. 166-7)

John Michael Greer Author Photo
John Michael Greer


Apocalypse Not cover image