Heaven On Earth


Heaven On Earth

The Varieties of the Millennial Experience

Millennialists through the ages have looked forward to the apocalyptic moment that will radically transform society into heaven on earth. They have delivered withering critiques of their own civilizations and promised both the impending annihilation of the forces of evil and the advent of a perfect society. And all their promises have invariably failed. We tend, therefore, to dismiss these prophets of doom and salvation as crackpots and madmen, and not surprisingly historians of our secular era have tended to underestimate their impact on our modern world. Now, Richard Landes offers a lucid and ground-breaking analysis of this widely misunderstood phenomenon.

This long-awaited study shows that many events typically regarded as secular–including the French Revolution, Marxism, Bolshevism, Nazism--not only contain key millennialist elements, but follow the apocalyptic curve of enthusiastic launch, disappointment and (often catastrophic) re-entry into "normal time." Indeed, as Landes examines the explicit millennialism behind such recent events as the emergence of Global Jihad since 1979, he challenges the common notion that modern history is largely driven by secular interests. By focusing on ten widely different case studies, none of which come from Judaism or Christianity, he shows that millennialism is not only a cultural universal, but also an extremely adaptive social phenomenon that persists across the modern and post-modern divides. At the same time, he also offers valuable insight into the social and psychological factors that drive such beliefs.

Ranging from ancient Egypt to modern-day UFO cults and global Jihad, Heaven on Earth both delivers an eye-opening revisionist argument for the significance of millennialism throughout history and alerts the reader to the alarming spread of these ideologies in our world today.


Irén Annus
Nova Religio, The journal of Alternative and EMergent Religions, February 2016
Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, December 5, 2022

Andrew Gow

American Historical Review, December 5, 2022

I found this book to be both amazing and enlightening. As I suggested at the start, I am unqualified to review it in the critical perspective of other work in the same field of study, but I found its arguments compelling and its stories fascinating. We know these characters, from Jim Jones to Adolf Hitler, and Landes offers a plausible framework in which to understand their seemingly inexplicable power over their followers. The stories he tells help us to tease out the underlying patterns of human behavior that permit atrocities like the Holocaust, and leave us open, in the current century, to real and actual self-destruction as a species. In reading the deplorable history of apocalyptic prophesies and events and in understanding how they come about, Landes suggests in his conclusion, we might just possibly avert the biggest one of all.


Peter Clothier, HuffPost

"Millennial expressions are found throughout history and are all around us. As Richard Landes demonstrates, some have extremely serious consequences. This is an erudite and informative cross-cultural study of the characteristics and dynamics of the varieties of millennial movements. There is much to be learned from this volume. Particularly welcome are the treatments of the secular millennial thought of Marx, and the Communist millennial movement in Russia and its influence on German Nazi millennialism. Richard Landes's insightful analysis of millennial phenomena constitutes a major
contribution to the study of history and current events."

Catherine Wessinger, Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions, Loyola University New Orleans

"A craggy edifice of a book, monumental in scope, solid in scholarship, exploring many crevices of the past that will disturb and provoke every serious reader… This book is about the urgent temperament of those who expect the grandest events of history and the cosmos to occur soon and suddenly,
whether as a religious dénouement with the coming of the Last Days or as a final social solution to solve the human predicament forever. Through a judicious collection of cases (including radical shifts of belief in Antiquity, cargo cults, and UFO religions), Landes demonstrates just how significant
the millenarian factor is in history, and admonishes that this element has been paradoxically downplayed by historians (who often do not even want to understand it)."

Garry W. Trompf, Emeritus Professor in the History of Ideas and Adjunct Professor in Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

"A significant contribution...succeeds in both analyzing past catastrophic millennialist movements and predicting what the future may hold."

Library Journal

"A large and impressive book that shows a vast learning."

Kenneth Minogue, Wall Street Journal

"A superb new book."

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal

"In Heaven on Earth, Richard Landes redresses our historiographical blind eye towards manifestly irrational social movements."
Daivis P. Goldman

"Landes, an expert in medieval religion, presents arguments that will be controversial but are also largely convincing."

"In his taxonomy of millennial ideas and movements over the course of history, Landes ascribes a very important role to Judaism. Heaven on Earth concludes with an urgent reminder of the danger posed by contemporary millennialism to the Jews."

Jewish Ideas Daily

"The research is vast and deep, discovering meanings that one might have overlooked, had one not the impulse to upset convention.a work of enormous erudition and an imparter of knowledge and insight."

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

I found Landes' attention to detail and persuasive argumentation on the parallels between these disparate movements one of the outstanding merits of the volume. The depth of his research is indeed impressive, as is his ability to create a narrative that is truly academic and interdisciplinary, as
well as a pleasant read."

Nova Religio