John Gray’s (2008) Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia diagnoses the West’s ‘modern malady’: we are suffering an acute case of eschatological thinking. Having over-indulged on the myth of an End-Time (a coming apocalypse or, in secular parlance, the end of history) we’ve fallen ill. Our primary symptom is political violence, brought on by a mistaken belief in our mandate to bring about the telos or purpose of history. But violence justified by reference to fulfilling history’s purpose has one problem: history has no purpose.
Once you believe you’re privy to the purpose of history there is no reason to tolerate ignorance. All are to be brought into the light, by force if need be. History takes precedence over man and will not tolerate those who stand in the way. This is the grand delusion underlying our modern malady. We believe that history has a meaning, that we’re justified in using violence to bring history to its culmination, and that it is possible to do so through an act of human will (Gray 2008a, p. 38).
Gray captured the essence of this delusion while in Australia for the 2008 Sydney Writers’ Festival:
The old slogan ‘You can’t have an omelette without breaking eggs’ misses out the fact that you can break millions of eggs and still not have a single omelette. And that’s, in a way, the history of the twentieth century.