Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM)

Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM)

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The Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements

The Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) was formed in 2015 by the Panacea Charitable Trust (PCT) to create ‘a world centre of excellence in the critical study of apocalyptic and millenarian movements[,] and aid the public understanding of the legacies and future possibilities of these crucial, creative and often misunderstood forms of human culture’ (‘CenSAMM’). The origins of the PCT lie in the Panacea Society, a millenarian religious association founded by Mabel Barltrop (1866–1934)—known as ‘Octavia’—in Bedford, UK, in the aftermath of World War I, which was recognized as a charity in 1926. Following the decline of the society’s membership in the latter part of the 20th century, the charity underwent a process of modernisation in the early 2000s and was renamed the ‘Panacea Charitable Trust’ in 2012 after the death of the last resident member, Ruth Klein (1932–2012) (Panacea Charitable Trust 2015; Lockhart 2021).

Over time, trustees have included a number of scholars of religion including Naomi Hilton, author of 'Traversing the Heavens: The State of Scholarship on 3 Baruch' for the Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha (2013); Philip Lockley, the author of Visionary Religion and Radicalism in Early Industrial England: From Southcott to Socialism (2012); Justin Meggitt, University Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Cambridge, author of Early Quakers and Islam: Slavery, Apocalyptic and Christian-Muslim Encounters in the Seventeenth Century (2013); Christopher Rowland, formerly Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture in the University of Oxford, author of Revelation: the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ (2004) with Judith Kovacs, and The Open Heaven: a Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (1982); and Jane Shaw, Professor of the History of Religion, University of Oxford, the author of Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and her Followers (2011). Following modernisation and the end of the society’s religious affiliation, the trust included amongst its activities furthering understanding of the legacy of the society and similar movements in the contemporary world, a purpose which culminated in the formation of CenSAMM. As such, CenSAMM is not religiously aligned and seeks to foster scholarship and public understanding in the field of apocalyptic and millenarian studies without taking a confessional standpoint (‘About CenSAMM’).

The Centre was established under the leadership of Simon Robinson as project director until 2018. Since 2018 it has been led by two academic directors: James Crossley, Professor of Bible, Society and Politics at St Mary’s University Twickenham, and Alastair Lockhart, Fellow of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. Crossley is a researcher in the fields of Christian origins and Judaism in the 1st century, and political understandings of religion and the Bible with a special focus on English political discourse (‘Prof James Crossley’). Dr Lockhart is a scholar of late-modern emerging religion and belief, and the psychology of religion—and he has worked extensively on the Panacea Society’s history (‘Dr Alastair Lockhart’; Lockhart 2019).

CenSAMM’s activities include establishing networks of scholars in the field, organising academic conferences and meetings, holding events and generating materials promoting public understanding, supporting scholars seeking to extend academic interaction and public understanding, and providing reliable information for individuals from all walks of life with an interest in apocalyptic and millenarian movements. These activities include supporting the Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements, launched online in 2021 and edited by Crossley and Lockhart.

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‘About CenSAMM.’ n.d. Retrieved from https://censamm.org/about.

‘CenSAMM.’ n.d. Retrieved from http://panaceatrust.org/charitable-activities/censamm

‘Dr Alastair Lockhart.’ n.d. Retrieved from https://www.divinity.cam.ac.uk/directory/Lockhart

Hilton, Naomi. 2013. 'Traversing the Heavens: The State of Scholarship on 3 Baruch.' Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 22(4): 247-268.

Kovacs, Judith and Christopher Rowland. 2004. Revelation: The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. Malden MA; Oxford; Carlton, Australia: Blackwell Publishing.

Lockhart, Alastair. 2019. Personal Religion and Spiritual Healing: The Panacea Society in the Twentieth Century. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Lockhart, Alastair. 2021. ‘Panacea Society.’ In James Crossley and Alastair Lockhart (eds.) Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements. 15 January 2021. Retrieved from www.cdamm.org/articles/panacea-society.

Meggitt, Justin J. (2013) 2016. Early Quakers and Islam: Slavery, Apocalyptic and Christian-Muslim Encounters in the Seventeenth Century. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock.

Panacea Charitable Trust. 2015. ‘Panacea Charitable Trust: Report and Financial Statements: 31 December 2015.’ Retrieved from https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-search/-/charity-details/227530/financial-history

‘Prof James Crossley.’ n.d. Retrieved from https://www.stmarys.ac.uk/staff-directory/james-crossley

Rowland, Christopher. 1982. The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity. New York: Crossroad.

Shaw, Jane. 2011. Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and her Followers. London: Jonathan Cape.

© Alastair Lockhart 2021

Article information

Alastair Lockhart. 2021. 'Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM).' In James Crossley and Alastair Lockhart (eds.) Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements. 21 January 2021. Retrieved from www.cdamm.org/articles/censamm.

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144,000 refers to a belief in an elect group, often at end times or in an imminent transformation of the world. The usage typically derives from the book of Revelation. In Revelation 7:1–8, 144,000 refers to the twelve tribes of Israel who have the seal of God on their foreheads. They are also presented as virgins, blameless, ‘redeemed from the earth’, and expected to sing a new song at Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1–5).


In popular usage, 'apocalypticism' refers to a belief in the likely or impending destruction of the world (or a general global catastrophe), usually associated with upheaval in the social, political, and religious order of human society—often referred to as an/the 'apocalypse'. Historically, the term has had religious connotations and the great destruction has traditionally been seen as part of a divine scheme, though it is increasingly used in secular contexts. See the Apocalypticism article for a more detailed discussion.


In popular use, ‘Armageddon’ involves ideas of great cataclysmic events or conflict. The term has long been used to refer to a future battle or ongoing war at the end of time or civilization, whether understood generally as a cataclysmic final battle or specifically as a battle at a place called Megiddo (a location in modern Israel), or a more flexible understanding of Megiddo as a coded reference to an alternative location. ‘Armageddon’ derives from the book of Revelation where it appears just once (Revelation 16:16) with reference to the location of a great cosmic battle associated with the end times. See the Armageddon article for a more detailed discussion.

Beast of the Apocalypse

In popular terms, the 'Beast' or the 'Beast of the Apocalypse' refer generally to a violent and destructive creature that emerges at end times. Such understandings of an end-time beast or beasts derive from the book of Revelation (also called the The Apocalypse) and its long and varied history of interpretation. Revelation refers to 'beasts' on different occasions, including beasts in opposition to God: one emerging from the sea or a pit (Revelation 11:7; 13:1; 17:8; cf. Daniel 7), one from the earth (Revelation 13:11), and another scarlet in colour (Revelation 17:3). The beast from the earth is also associated with the number 666 (alternatively: 616) (Revelation 13:18) and Revelation 19:20 claims that the beast will 'thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur' (New Revised Standard Version).


‘Eschatology’ concerns the study of end times and is derived from the Greek term ἔσχατος (eschatos), meaning ‘final, ‘last’, ‘end’, etc. Eschatology is a label that can incorporate a cluster of related beliefs which differ according to tradition (e.g., end of the world, resurrection, regeneration, Day of Judgment, Antichrist).

Kingdom of God

In the Bible, the ‘Kingdom of God’ (sometimes synonymous with the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’) refers to notions of ruling and kingship which are often understood to have a spatial or territorial dimension, whether in heaven or on earth. According to the book of Daniel, such ‘kingdom’ language is used to describe the claim that God rules the universe eternally (Daniel 4:34) but will also intervene in human history to establish a kingdom for his people (Daniel 2:44). According to the Gospels, Jesus predicted the coming Kingdom of God or Heaven and these predictions have been influential in the history of speculations about end times or the benefits of the kingdom being experienced in a present time and place. Across different traditions, such language has also been used to describe communities deemed holy or places deemed sacred, as well as being understood with reference to personal or ‘spiritual’ transformation.


Messianism refers to ideas about a redeemer figure or figures who transform the fortunes of a given people or the world as a whole. The term ‘Messiah’ is derived from the Hebrew משיח (mashiach), meaning ‘anointed one’. In the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, it is a term used to denote people such as kings, priests and prophets anointed to carry out their duties on behalf of God. In early Judaism, the term took on a more precise meaning as a future redeemer figure, including a king in the line of David. New Testament texts made such clams about Jesus where a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew, Χριστός (christos), became part of his name: Jesus Christ.


In popular and academic use, the term ‘millenarianism’ is often synonymous with the related terms ‘millennialism’, ‘chiliasm’ and ‘millenarism’. They refer to an end-times Golden Age of peace, on earth, for a long period, preceding a final cataclysm and judgement—sometimes referred to as the 'millennium'. The terms are used to describe both millenarian belief and the persons or social groups for whom that belief is central. ‘Millennialism’ or ‘chiliasm’ are chronological terms derived from the Latin and Greek words for ‘thousand’. They are commonly used to refer to a thousand-year period envisaged in the book of Revelation (20:4–6) during which Christ and resurrected martyrs reign prior to the final judgment. More recently the terms have been used to refer to secular formulas of salvation, from political visions of social transformation to UFO movements anticipating globally transformative extra-terrestrial intervention. See the Millenarianism article for a more detailed discussion.


‘Prophecy’ can be broadly understood as a cross-cultural phenomenon involving claims of supernatural or inspired knowledge transmitted or interpreted by an authoritative recipient, intermediary, or interpreter labelled a ‘prophet’. The term is also used in a more general and secular way to refer to individuals who simply predict or prognosticate future events, or those leading principled causes or in pursuit of a particular social or political vision without any special association with inspired or supernatural insight. The language of ‘prophet’ and ‘prophecy’ in English derives from the Greek προφητης (prophētēs) found in the Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and in the New Testament. See the Prophets and Prophecy article for a more detailed discussion.

Son of Man

‘Son of man’ simply means ‘man’ in biblical Hebrew and Aramaic and is a title for Jesus in the Greek New Testament. While the ancient idiom is gendered, some scholars prefer to bring out the generic implications and reflect inclusive language today in their English translations (e.g., 'son of a human being', 'son of humanity'). The phrase sometimes took on a more titular function before Jesus because of the book of Daniel. In Daniel 7, Daniel is said to have had a vision of four destructive beasts representing four kingdoms and who stand in contrast to a human-like figure—‘one like a son of man’. The ‘Ancient of Days’ then takes away the power of the beasts and Daniel sees ‘one like a son of man’ approaching, ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’ (Daniel 7:13; New International Version). Daniel 7 claims that this ‘son of man’ figure will be given ‘authority, glory and sovereign power’, ‘all peoples’ will worship him, and his kingdom will be everlasting. The precise identification of the ‘one like a son of man’ in Daniel 7:13 is not made explicit and there has been a long history of identification with a variety of candidates in apocalyptic and millenarian movements, sometimes without reference to the book of Daniel.


‘Zion’ is an alternative name for Jerusalem and the ‘city of David’ (2 Samuel 5:7; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Chronicles 11:5; 2 Chronicles 5:2), though it is also used with reference to Israel. Zion can also refer to ‘Mount Zion’, a hill located in Jerusalem which was the site of the Jewish Temple (destroyed 70 CE) and is the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Zion and Mount Zion are sometimes interpreted as coded references to an alternative geographical location or to something ‘spiritual’ and otherworldly. In some religious traditions, Zion plays a central role in expectations about end times or the benefits associated with end times being fulfilled in the present.