JF Ptak Science Books
There are, in my experience, very few antiquarian images depicting the end of the world in which we see the entire globe exploding or in pieces or in flames. This sort of image gets more play in the 20th century, especially after 8 August 1945, but prior to that it is really very scarce. I own a few images that appear in the 17th and 19th centuries, and another from 1929 (Das Weltbild which show a “giant ice ball” colliding into and completely destroying the earth). . Then there is this new find, S.L. Lacy’s The End of the World, (necessarily) self-published in West Point, Virginia, in 1941. It is a short and stocky, and bound in orange wrappers—its spine title (The End of the World) begs the casual reader to pull it from the shelf. It’s a simple book—studying the Bible prophecies and revelations on the end of all things—and it annoys and is insulting but doesn’t disappoint.
I started to breeze through the book (back-to-front as always) and opened the book to Chapter XIII, finding this delicious chapter heading: “The Chronological Order of Final Things”, this being a full page pre-PowerPoint summation of the time-shrinking fireball that is rolling inexorably towards us all. To say that one is able to put a period at the end of the world's flow of time, that someone is able to identify the point in the future where the future is no more, is "presumptive"--this in the most understated fashion as to offend even the highest of high-Victorians' sense of restrained propriety. Wrapped in a comfortable Christian chrysalis of pre- and post-apocalyptic religious certitude, Mr. Lacy delivers his interpretation of biblical prophecy for the coming of the end, hustling it to the front of the religious line of things to come.
It seems that in 1941 the end was beginning, and Lacy saw all of the images implied by prophecy that were necessary to announce the glorious final days of broad retribution. This includes the list if the ten things indicating "the sign of The Times", one of which (Number 5) was "The Automobile" and another (Number 7) was "Increased Knowledge and Travel" (announced by Nathum 2: 3,4 and old dependable Daniel. 12:4, respectively. There's nothing that doesn't fit into Daniel's visions or revelations, though Mr. Cash has certainly made a lovely song of them.) When everything fits perfectly into a predictive model with no possibility of falsification (or of proof or disproof), then the model has no validity outside of a belief system in itself. Very tidy.
It is an annoying, cloying minor treatise, promising little more than The Lake of Fire awaiting almost all of us, even the sleeping dead, who would be scraped from their graves to be spit into this burning tragedy.
Lacy does a lot of inspired interpretation and philosophizing, much of which he doesn’t seem to bother separating from biblical quotations—I don’t think it is intentional, just bad writing. A random find in Lacy’s thinking dislodges the following nugget:
“Satan is in the atmosphere above the earth, with access to heaven and earth with a circumscribed power over the atmospheric elements and the earth including the inhabitants”.
But enough of this nonsense. What brought me to this work is the folding schematic map at the front of the book. It is a slightly complex jumble of semi-circles and circular reasoning, and I have no interest in straightening out this jumbled linguine. What has my interest is the dissolving Earth part of the diagram, a part of the dead earth that comes between Calvary and Heaven-on-Earth. What makes this image different from the others though is that the Earth reappears—different from its former self having been vanquished and cleansed by all consuming fire, but the Earth nevertheless. Or something like it. Or nothing like it.