Previously, we’ve discussed the cycles of history that promise to converge to create the anticipated apocalypse of 2012—a time when life as we know it ends and a new “spiritually en-lightened” world emerges.
As we continue the study of cycle theory, the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss has been applauded in secular circles as “visionary.” Indeed, their book The Fourth Turning is provocative in addressing the cycle they believe America is in at this moment. In their 1997 work, Howe and Strauss defined four repeating generational archetypes: 1) Hero (raised protectively as children); 2) Artist (raised during a time of crisis); 3) Prophet (raised during post-crisis affluence); and 4) Nomad (raised during times of cultural upheavals).
As each of these generations progress through four phases of life (childhood, young adulthood, mid life, and old age), they create a “turning.” The turning represents the end of one 20-year cycle (approx.) and the beginning of another. The “national mood of the country depends upon where the generational archetypes exist within the cycles.” Howe explained “turnings” in a recent interview in “The Casey Report”:
Just as there are four generational archetypes, there are four turnings. The First Turning we call a High. Highs are periods in which institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Highs in America were experienced post-World War II, post-Civil War, and post-American Revolution. These were times when Americans felt good about themselves and wanted to gather together to enjoy life and prosperity.
Highs are followed by the Second Turning we call an Awakening. Awakenings are periods of public progress with no apparent limit to prosperity. However, suddenly everyone tires of social conformity and decides they want to rediscover individuality. America’s most recent and most memorable period of Awakening began in the mid-60s and continued into the early 1980s.
Awakenings are followed by the Third Turning we call an Un-raveling. In an Unraveling, individualism flourishes while institutions are weak and discredited. It is a time of celebrity circuses and a tremendous amount of freedom and creativity in our personal lives, but very little sense of public purpose. In American history, these were also decades of cynicism and bad manners. The most recent period of Unraveling lasted from the mid-‘80s through the mid-‘90s and historically during the 1920s, the 1850s, and the 1760s.
A Third Turning has always historically been followed by a Fourth Turning. The generational line-up sets the stage: a Prophet generation enters old age, with Nomads entering mid-life, Heroes entering young adulthood, and Artists arriving as children.
It was Howe’s comments regarding the beginning of a Fourth Turning that got my full attention:
We have seen that if history doesn’t provide a Crisis-catalyzing event, Fourth-Turning leaders will invent them in order to galvanize collective action and begin the process of reversing many of the Third Turning attitudes. The culture begins to find a sense of purpose again, including propaganda that spurs people to coalesce around the same goal. Individualism gives way to a new sense of community. People begin to identify themselves with larger groups. We have seen this in previous Fourth Turnings, like the 1930s, which the historian Frederick Lewis Allen called the decade of community and belonging.
(Perhaps the comparisons of Barack H. Obama to Franklin D. Roosevelt following the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency were not so far-fetched.)
According to Howe, we are in the process of entering a Fourth Turning—one that is characterized by an agenda. And, it just so happens to come at a time when an agenda for change fits squarely into an already popular topic of catastrophic change—2012.
In order to mobilize a society to change quickly, an atmosphere of fear must be obtained and sustained. Historically, it has happened with war. However, the War on Terror, while mobilizing a reduction in personal freedoms in America, did not maintain our attention. The ensuing global financial meltdown (allowed by the U.S. government, the U.S. financial institutions, the Federal Re-serve and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury) followed. Again, the situation had our full attention, but very little public out-cry with the initial takeover of private banks and corporations.
There may be a reason for the slow start of a public response to the change in government attitude. Regarding the general mind-set at the time, Neil Howe said, “During the Third Turning, it was in the interest of any investor and anyone in any business not to be noticed by the government, but rather to make your decisions in the free market, pocket your money, and move on.”
Howe continued with what would have been timely advice for many corporate executives, “Now, however, you want to know and build relationships with people in power, because you never know when they will have the opportunity to do something for you—or do something to you.” (emphasis mine) As we watch the headlines, we are amazed at the speed with which change is happening, especially in America. It is purposed that way.
Historically, many world leaders have sought a one-world (global) agenda. We are entering an extraordinary time in which the cycles of nature, societies, governments, and economies are converging in what appears to be a perfect vortex for the change to achieve that goal. Howe concluded his above re-marks with, “Pragmatically speaking, as we move into an era of community and belonging, if you do not belong, your interests and your point of view are not going to be taken into ac-count.”
The “Change We Can Believe In” campaign slogan that brought Obama into the White House will require the “individual” to be sacrificed on the altar of “community.” The diversity of the American Middle Class must give way to a “standard acceptable lifestyle” in keeping with the world population. The time has arrived for the wealthy (regardless of how they came into that wealth) to pay for their opulence. In order to bring about the desired change without allowing society to dis-integrate into total anarchy, a spirit of fear will continue to be dispensed from government leaders via a media that has already bought into the vision for the future. It is for such a time as this that Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Cycles represent the rehearsals of what will ultimately be-come the end. Without a Biblical worldview, it will be easy to assume that what we face is just another cycle—one in which we will survive to live another day and change the outcome. This is a part of the deception the ruler of this world would have us believe. Paul again provides advice for our generation in 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
The hype surrounding 2012 provides a backdrop to explain what is happening on a “spiritual level” in conjunction with the ancient civilizations as well as keep an apocalyptic fear of dis-aster at the forefront of our thoughts. It is imperative that we maintain situational awareness in our personal lives—that we not accept a spirit of fear, allow the deception to creep into our thoughts, and become part of the “community.”
Biblically speaking, what makes this convergence of cycles so different from those observed in history? Israel is in the land—in unbelief as foretold by the prophets. We are operating on God’s time clock now. Truth is that point where word and deed meet. What lays on our horizon is that point where God’s Word and His deeds become one and prophecy is fulfilled. All indications point to a time of unprecedented upheaval to life as we know it. But then again, we’ve read the Book and we know the ending. Next month, we will look at “2010 and Beyond.”