Eschatological Echoes

“Eschatological Echoes”: The Psychosomatic Teleologies of Ruinous Decay in Davies’ “Doomsday” and Ignatieff’s “Myth and Malevolence”

That beyond the death, or dying nature, of philosophy [and all knowing within humanity], perhaps even because of it, thought still has a future, or even, as is said today, is still entirely to come because of what philosophy [and the whole human endeavour] has held in store; or, more strangely still, that the future itself has a future—all these are unanswerable questions. –Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, 97-98

All that we are as human beings is held within subtle progressions towards that which is death and that which is unanswerable. Is it then not unfitting that this one eternal rhythm takes the better part of our morbidly curious imaginings? Or that we may even finally have something for prosperity in our actions and thoughts? One would certainly hope so… and that is exactly why the cerebral and narrative provisions of mythology will always exist within the human experience. The term of myth comes to us from Plato, where the Greeks had the cognate muthos that represented a true story of which was nonfalsifiable and nonargumentative discourse (Brisson, 137). Recent scholarship has shown that myths are quite fundamental to the psycho-cognitive apparatus of human beings through emerging field concepts such as mythogenesis and mythopoeia (Slotkin, 7-8). These are important concepts for exploring both “Doomsday” and “Myth and Malevolence,” which have largely been shaped by the historic, transdiscursive commentaries on myth. Locally, each article is teeming with their own master variant of what may be termed as psychosomatic teleology, the belief that we are driven to a purposeness and final cause from which our own psyche and physical world conforms to in self-fulfilling a script. The reason for this relation is centered in that each article presents a succinct model of forecasting [1] an eschatology [2], an apocalypse that is united under a notion of the self, a self that must face adversity and atrocity in exploring greatest truths of our being left to the mercy of ruinous decay.

Paul Davies in “Doomsday” provides a compelling account of the last days with the Swift-Tuttle comet hypothesis showing that catastrophe, if imminent, cripples humanity into the reality of one monomyth [3]. The scientific array of hard disciplines have been earnestly selected to answer a simple but necessary question: what would happen to Earth if any planetary body were to collide with it? The brutal answer is shattering from the contributions of physics, astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, and so forth—nothing less than a mass extinction event. This answer was arranged through a complex set of computations and simulations where all the disciplines were reduced to ordinances of mathematical formula to be entered into the hardware of supercomputers. After the numbers came to tally, the brightest minds scribbled over the significance to gloss in systems analysis from each of their specialties, a picture that we could see and read in mouth-watering despair. In building this transdisciplinary unit, a likely and meaningful problem was posed to be assessed by a supplementary, unifying, and concept interdisciplinarity that became much more than any one of its parts in becoming a beautiful homeless totality (Klein, 64-65). The subtle relations of knowledge brim about like a modern day Oracle. And once this situation becomes reality, then such truthful findings makes the rest imminent: “it is only a matter of time” (Davies, 25). We are now living in the irrefutability of myth—all is despair. He explains how we are destined to bow under the weight as humanity “can only watch and wait” (Davies, 25) in suggesting how completely insignificant we are amongst the stars. Then the oldest, deepest rhetoric within Davies sweeps in to wipe our eyes as we hear the echoes of all the biblical and mystical foretellings of that one, black day spelled out to us in a thousand whispers—a great pause filled with fuzzy worry to prickling despair of the unknown.

“Myth and Malevolence” by Michael Ignatieff unwillingly invites us to the horrors of “ethnic cleansing” that madly overcame the former Yugoslavia in Eastern Europe to demonstrate humanity at its worst as harbingers of endless strife-induced bloodlust. This wave of genocidal brutalities is still something that unimaginably shocks the informed by occurring on the watch of the Western civilized world in their own communal backyard nonetheless. The million dollar question: how the hell could something like this happen in our enlightened century? Puzzled, Ignatieff was strapped to provide such a frame when he set his foot inside Bosnia charged by his political science loyalties from which he borrowed from history, sociology, anthropology, folklore, and philosophy to explain a complicated set of events. Any sign of duress, hardship, or undoing that stands to invade the wellbeing of an on-the-edge community will trigger a set of deeply embedded wrongs from past or present in order to scapegoat and press an otherness of demonization onto its neighbours. Quite clearly, Ignatieff explains his position that myths “endure because they offer repertories of moral justification. Myths turn crime into fate and murder into necessity; they both justify atrocity and perpetuate it” (84). The power of myth is indeed demonstrated here as the Serbs take on this undeniable inward truth of unmerited persecution and deserving justice; it moulds the Serbs to perform unconscionable acts towards the Muslims and Croats for this very tangible awakening is a pervasive and predominant psychological reality that demands a final end and cause within the havens of homogeneity, an ethnic nation-state. This interdisciplinary attempt at understanding a subset of myth starts with a synoptic and theoretical curio that takes on a linear, auxiliary, and border interdisciplinarity (Klein, 64-65). If anything, the words of Ignatieff make us come to terms with the fact that everyone must be very careful about which myths they let themselves believe in for there are consequences. No theoretical chain can ever master what most modern scholars would agree as the one event sanctioned by myths and personal rationalizations that put forth some of the most horrific and daimonic cruelty bent in the blindest misanthropy of the twenty century, a case for the existence of evil.

So what do we get when combing both articles? A very meticulous model of total decay and destruction of our species. To study something like an extinction event, the one studying this phenomenon cannot be anything less than interdisciplinary. Every single apocalypse or eschatological account from the beginning of time has been something so complex that nothing less than systems analysis in scale can hope to answer what is exactly happening at any given moment as one factor constantly creates ripple systems. A term for such complexity, causation, and relations is held within the term, domino ex deus [4]. The one event of the apocalypse can then be thought as a complex play of causations and fields that are in constant dialogue and influence with one another. In getting to a final consilience with the two articles, I think it would be more apt to start with the transdisciplinary model of computation and simulation from Davies than going with Ignatieff and moving on a more struggling set of connectivities and precedences without the same synoptic and practical power of integration. The truest beauty here is that both systems are complementary and distinct without any in-between conflict, but they most certainly have a common node of humanity and psychology. That being said here, the model to be created for this context would look at what the rate and mode of extinction for humanity is in terms of a comet or other devastatingly large-scale humanity killers. The Ignatieff modeling would more or less add unconsidered detailed information for how psychology and other allied disciplines could help create formula for how secondary conflict might factor in from the stresses of comet fallout or other deadly events along with the ever-present dwindling resources that would make populations shift to ends like violence in further fading into non-existence. These models themselves would now provide very important myths and accounts of all the possible futures for humanity, but as every good storyteller knows, there are always other stories that humanity could wake up to in sobriety, but this solely depends on what myths humanity is willing to accept in taking on the internal sets of psychosomatic teleologies that make futures for all the drives and desires within humanity—speak not but the truth that you will become, lay to rest all other slithering tongues.

One fixed aspect of this sort of inquiry is that myths will never be something absent from humanity and the ways of becoming known to them in narrative or otherwise. These are fundamental parts to how stories in their undeniable belief will continue to function for as long as we can breathe the word. Myths escape us—they transform into something so much more, just as the thought itself transcend the philosopher in having a future outside its origins. The words of this text will bleed to the ethereal; new eyes will find meaning in the alien rhythms of a forgotten people. The echoes of our destruction will outlast us like an eternal wave over the universe making its mark with the carvings of spiritus humanitas [5].

Works Cited

    Brisson, Luc. Plato the Myth Maker. Trans. Gerard Neddaf. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000. Trans. of Platon, les mots et les mythes. 1994.

    Davies, Paul. “Doomsday.” Intersections: Readings in the Sciences and Humanities. Ed. Steven Scott, Don Perkins, and Erika Rothwell. Toronto: Pearson, 2005. 24-28.

    Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge, 2005. Trans. of L’écriture et la difference. 1967.

    Ignatieff, Michael. “Myth and Malevolence” Intersections: Readings in the Sciences and Humanities. Ed. Steven Scott, Don Perkins, and Erika Rothwell. Toronto: Pearson, 2005. 83-86.

    Klein, Julie. Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, & Practice. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990.

    Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860. Norman: Oklahoma University Press, 2000.


[1] Myth can be typological divided under these master categories: that which originates, that which is, that which will be.

[2] Eschatology is a theological and mythographic term for the doctrines and accounts that relate to the future relations existing within the final and terminating aspects of any belief system or literary universe.

[3] A single set of coherent narratives across multiple distinct contexts in which all obey a common set of principles and patterns from which each myth derives its intelligible structure.

[4] This Latinate phrase relates to apocalyptic criticism in which the events surrounding any given destructive force is always mysteriously hidden or veiled to the point that the perceived complexity of knowing what it, the mechanisms of that in-question force within the apocalypse, is more or less unexplainable till that one point where some insight, as if by divine inspiration intercedes into history by making sense of everything, its causation, and its telos.

[5] The Latin phrase, spiritus humanitas, is translated as “the spirit of humanity.” This is a reference to all the collective aspects of humanity. In essence, it refers to the genius that makes us all tick.