Friday, December 26, 2008

Apocalypse When?

As we stand on the brink of entering 2009 and we look back on the present year, there are many questions about the massive changes that were witnessed over the last 12 months. Jaw dropping financial announcements followed unexpected global political events; while a host of small-bore issues started converging in areas as diverse as the environment, transportation, food production, religious strife and ethnic intolerance. Our biggest fears are manifest, just as our desperate hopes are pinned on one man's gifted oratory. Unless you've been living in isolation, its fairly obvious that we have entered a time of transition; our planetary governance system is disintegrating under the pressures brought to bear by 6.8 billion people, in fact, the very planet has had enough of us.

Sound like the 'end of days' scenario prevalent in fundamental Christianity? Perhaps, but the issue with prophecy is that it very much depends on the quality of the prophet; we are talking about foretelling the future after all. Particularly during stressful transition phases, when most people are prone to looking for answers beyond the conventional. Which makes it all the more interesting is that South Africa had a remarkably accurate prophet, who's visions have consistently been proven by the uncompromising test of history. However his ethnicity, and contentious revelations, still cause controversy today; some 82 years after he died.

Nikolaas 'Siener' van Rensburg was an illiterate Afrikaner farmer; who dictated some 700 visions over a 27 year period until his death in 1926. As a child he only had 2 weeks of formal schooling and his mother eventually taught him how to spell out words in order to be able to read painstakingly. As a result he only ever read the the Bible and was never exposed to other publications during his life. This, combined with his upbringing on an isolated farm and his 'sensitive' nature, ensured that this 'siener' (Afrikaans for seer) was able to receive extraordinary visions; without the encumbrance of opinion. It did mean that his visions where couched in the language and sentiment of his age though, albeit rich in universal symbology that the prophet himself sometimes failed to understand.

He was by all accounts a humble man that kept the company of his family and trusted friends, who were the only ones to share his visions first-hand. Reading Siener van Rensburg's words nearly a century after they were given, one is struck by his love for his people, fellow believers and nature. In view of apartheid's recent history, its not surprising that modern day liberals have grave reservations about the old prophet's prediction that the Afrikaners will again rule their former republic; just as the far-right are quick to claim ownership of his visions to bolster their political agenda. To do so however, is to become trapped in the superficial nature of each vision's literal meaning; rather than exploring the rich nature of the underpinning symbology.

Herein lies the irony of what it means to be a prophet, even an astonishingly accurate one. The audience will simply take from any prophecy what they find useful and attractive, ignoring the rest. Alternatively, unpleasant or frightening visions will similarly be cast aside. For example, Siener van Rensburg saw the Afrikaner as the Israelites of Africa; religious refugees wandering the wilderness in search of self-determination, cruelly exploited by a super-power only to be delivered from evil through moral rectitude. Yet at no stage did he maintain that this was a given right; in fact he made a clear distinction between the 'faithful' and the opportunistic amongst his people, as to which deserved the 'promised land'.

Its quite clear that Siener van Rensburg's visions were related within the narrow reference of his isolated existence, and further metaphysical analysis may well be possible on closer examination. Stepping back from realized prophecy and narrow ethnic interpretations of historic events; its clear that the last visions of Siener van Rensburg's life, as related to his daughter, hold special significance for the new millenium. Of particular importance is his prediction of a Third World War that destroys Europe and brings about the end of the Britsh, Russian and American hegemony. The prophecy dictates that all three states cease to exist after the invasion started by Russia and China is halted in Spain by the US and Germany; but not before Britain treacherously abandons it's US ally. This triggers a massive exodus of refugees who flood into Southern Africa; drastically altering the population demographic of the region. He ends by predicting that these events will transpire when 'the ice begins to melt'.

Farfetched? Let's examine the facts: (1) The Larsen ice shelf has collapsed in the Antarctic; while ice levels have receded drastically in Greenland, Alaska and the Arctic passages (2) Russia has just announced a $14 billion expansion of its military. (3) New gas and oil leases have been signed between Russia, Iran and Turkey; securing monopoly control over European energy supplies. (4) The 'electric ray' secret weapons Siener van Rensburg predicted in this 1920's vision, refers to US laser technology. He also indicates the use of tactical nuclear weapons, listed on the current Russian arms acquisition plan. (5) The financial demise of the US and Britain, as a result of this war, has ample precedent; particularly when we consider the debilitating effect of the Iraq occupation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the inherent danger of the vast dollar reserves held by Russia and China. (6) The 'seven plagues' predicted for Britain refers to the massive influx of refugees from former colonies, as a result of a worsening world economy prior to the outbreak of war.

Perhaps the answers are evident in the convergence of the above, obviating the need for prophecy; but it does confirm the perspicacious abilities of Siener van Rensburg. Whether a supporter or detractor, the message remains troublingly accurate and places the spotlight uncomfortably close to a mounting list of dangerous issues. As with well known prophecy of yore (Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce et al), the human fascintion with clairvoyance remains firmly tied to self-interest; but curiously aloof to warnings of danger.