The messianic phenomenon

The messianic phenomenon

Catalin Negru | Published: December 13, 2016 | 12:34

The Messiah. Every person has a different image in mind when hearing this word. Some see a shinning man dressed in white gloriously descending from heaven surrounded by angels; others see a great human being leading a group of people to victory in a great war, while others might imagine him as a king sitting on a throne. But who or what is the Messiah? Is he a man? A half-god? God himself? What is his purpose? Will he bring the end of the world? Will he fight against the Antichrist or another evil character at the end of times? The answer to all these questions is surprisingly simple and human.

There is a distinction between the concept of “messiah” and the word “messiah.”

First and foremost we must understand that there is a distinction between the concept of “messiah” and the word “messiah.” The word “Messiah” (often written with capital “M”) is a sort of name and it designates a single entity. Nowadays, the word “Messiah” designates the concept of “messiah” because of the spread of the Abrahamic religions and Judaism was the first in line. According to the Jewish scriptures, the word “Messiah” (Romanized Hebrew: mashiah) initially described kings and priests that were anointed with oil (Exodus 30:22-25). So, when did the word “messiah” come to be one and the same with the concept of “messiah” (or the messianic concept) as it is understood today? When did it come to signify a savior, a liberator or an end-time entity?

The messianic concept appeared in Judaism during the Egyptian captivity of the Israelites and the rise of the prophet Moses. Moses prophesied about the coming of the Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15-21), but, by freeing and leading the Israelites in Canaan (Book of Exodus), he was perceived by his people as a raw model

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5. Doomsday cults

5. DOOMSDAY CULTS



(This text is incomplete. If you wish to read it in full, please purchase the book) ... are synonymous with tragedy and disaster. But no cult is constituted as a doomsday cult, but it evolves into such a cult under the influence of a mentally challenged leader. The leader is the heart of a sect. He inspires power and influence and he identifies himself with the Messiah or with an important end-time prophet. He brings knowledge about new ways of redemption and news about imminent disasters. No group is a doomsday cult without the approval and the support of the leader. The psyches of the individuals and of the leader are in a relation of symbiosis: the adulation of the followers feeds the egocentrism of the false messiah, while the latter takes the responsibility of redeeming them. The leader controls the concepts of the individual,

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3.2. The apocalypse of religion

3.2. THE APOCALYPSE OF RELIGION

The presence of extraterrestrial beings fundamentally alters our conception about universal history and undermines the religious phenomenon by simply killing the idea of divinity or supernatural being. Before the advent of aliens the Universe had a complete spiritual form. From an Abrahamic point of view, the devil represents the evil, God represents the good, and the earth is a battleground between the two sides. Human beings: the victory trophy. But science shows that the Universe is unimaginably vast and mankind is only at the beginning of its quest for knowledge. Claiming at the moment that there is no life on other planets is a proof of fanaticism or stupidity. Yet, it is almost impossible to formulate theories which include in the same universe an all-powerful God and intelligent beings from other planets without violating religious dogmas.

God and aliens are in conflict with each other because they both aim to master the same object: man. Aliens, through the contactees, do not speak about an all-powerful god whom they represent, but about the fact that they are our gods. And there is no doubt that an official contact with extraterrestrial civilizations would cause massive social unrest and the collapse of the religious phenomenon; an absent god, supported by questionable beliefs, would not stand a chance against a visible and immediately accessible god, supported by science. The belief in aliens can be classified both as a religion and as a more sophisticated version of atheism. Aliens are not

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3.1. The age of the contactees

3. THE ALIEN APOCALYPSE

3.1. THE AGE OF THE CONTACTEES

For now, the strongest scientific argument that supports the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent beings is only a statistic: the Universe is so big that there has to be other life forms that possess intelligence and abilities to shape their environment. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, comprises over 100 billion stars, and the known Universe comprises over 100 billion galaxies. Hypothetically, if one in a million planets capable to support life would be indeed populated with life, and if one in a million planets that would be populated with life would also shelter intelligent life, then there would be millions of intelligent species in the Universe. So, following this reasoning, it is unlikely that Earth is the only planet that supports life and man is the only intelligent being in the Universe. The statistics, however, regardless of their kind, cannot serve as an indisputable proof that we are not alone, a proof that has been missing to this day. Accordingly, believing or not believing in aliens is a personal choice.

The current cultural image of aliens is chaotic and even hilarious, being formed of inexhaustible theories, countless “evidence” and lots of contradictions. On the one hand, huge funds and efforts are invested in scientific research to find microorganisms on various celestial bodies or to intercept a signal from unearthly intelligent beings. On the other hand, there is the media circus with flying saucers, aliens who violate our private property, enter houses without knocking at the door, disturb people’s sleep, sample cells, have fun raping or kidnapping humans, conspire to destroy us all, more aliens, secret experiments and human history rewritten. Since the beginning of the 20th century an industry that exploits our fascination and passion for the sensational has been developed. Compared to other paranormal topics (magic, Spiritism, fortune-telling, ghosts), aliens are at the top of the public’s preferences. Figuratively, we assist at an alien “invasion” in our everyday life: on TV, on

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1. Hong Xiuquan and the Taiping Rebellion

1. HONG XIUQUAN AND THE TAIPING REBELLION

Regardless of place, culture, or skin color, Christian apocalypticism was sometimes enthusiastically absorbed as a solution to the local problems. Both the black Nat Turner and the Amerindian Wovoka used it as a weapon against the white exploiters. Transposing themselves into the role of God’s messengers, their wrath came to be mistaken for God’s wrath. In both cases the rebels and the casualties were numbered in a couple of hundreds at most. In 1897 in Brazil the outcome was far worse: the political and economic convulsions boosted the prophet Antonio Conselheiro at the head of an apocalyptic rebellion that claimed over 15,000 lives.1197 But when this kind of social and religious phenomenon occurred in China, things had an entirely different proportion. In the country with more riots than the rest of the world combined, the Taiping Rebellion holds a special place. It stretched over a period of 15 years, it covered 11 provinces of the Yangtze River and it cost over 20 million lives – most likely the biggest revolt of mankind. And it all began with a Bible and a man who suffered a breakdown.

At the beginning of the 19th century Europeans were heavily involved in the Asian maritime trade. The Chinese ports became fertile places for business, with British dealers making huge profits from the opium trade. The Qing Dynasty opened the gates of China for commercial and cultural exchange, so Christian preachers and missionaries of all kinds came to put into practice their skills. The streets of the port city of Guangzhou were packed with militia, workers, opportunists, prostitutes, explorers, foreigners and businessmen. This was the urban environment in 1836, when Hong Renkun, a 22-year-old poor teacher from the countryside, arrived

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3.1. Ann Lee, Shakerism and the apocalypse of sex

3.1. ANN LEE, SHAKERISM AND THE APOCALYPSE OF SEX

In the 18th century European society was unquestionably masculine, dominated in all aspects by men. Religiously speaking, suggesting at the time that women were spiritually equal to men was a sort of blasphemy, the main argument being Eve’s weakness. According to the English journalist Samuel Johnson, the activity of women preachers was more a circus than a sermon in the real sense of the word: “A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.”997 Yet, one of the boldest and most original dissident groups of the period was led by a woman.

Ann Lee was a victim of the environment in which she lived. The second in a family of eight brothers, she was born in 1736 in a poor district of Manchester, England. Her father was a blacksmith whose modest income hardly fed the family. At the age of eight she was employed in a textile mill, and a couple of years later she served as a cook at the public infirmary and at the madhouse. Manchester was an overpopulated and unhealthy city, with streets full of filth and poverty. The poor workers – including her father – were suppressing their

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7.2.1. Popular apocalypticism

7.2. THE BRITISH PROPHETIC MOVEMENT

7.2.1. The popular apocalypticism

After the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and the assurance of a Protestant dominion, England became an appealing refuge for the continental radicals oppressed by the long hand of Catholicism. Élie Marion’s L’Enfants de Dieu (“God’s Children”) is the best example of visionaries who, due to the religious conflicts in the French regions, went to Switzerland in 1705, and reached London in 1706. In the island they were nicknamed the “French prophets,” due to their extraordinary abilities: they had visions, made miracles, spoke in tongues and experienced ecstatic trances. At first they were welcomed, but their pessimistic sermons caused repulsion and panic. After the series of revolutions, the plague and the Great Fire, England was tired by catastrophes and millenarism. It was a period of religious and political calm, because most of the people did not want to hear about an overthrow of the Protestant monarchy or an iteration of political experiments such as the Commonwealth or the Protectorate. So, the problem of the French prophets was not their message, but rather their timing; they were arrested, found guilty of blasphemy and disturbing the peace and condemned to pillory.844

With a secure and stable Protestant government, England had no reasons to worry, and the people were able to concentrate on more secular things, such as trade and commerce. The geographical conquests were boosting the British economy and the Enlightenment was bringing fresh ideas and perspectives in all fields. The British Empire was rapidly expanding and the future looked promising. Yet, for some this shift of interest was not a reason to celebrate. On the contrary; at the beginning of the 18th century clerics such as John Wesley, his brother Charles Wesley and George Whitefield noticed that there was something wrong with the spirituality of the English people: the process of evangelization was too slow. All three began to search for answers and methods

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5.2.3. Melchior Hoffman, Jan Matthys and the Munsterite theocracy

5.2.3. Melchior Hoffman, Jan Matthys and the Münsterite theocracy

The Reformation can be likened to a revolution and Protestants to revolutionaries. The early Protestants were in fact Catholics who were dissatisfied with the status of their religion and had the courage to question the legitimacy of the Catholic Church. The purpose of their protest was to improve and order the theological universe. But, despite their intention, as in the case of any revolution, the immediate effect was the spreading of chaos. And chaos, of any kind, is always an extraordinary opportunity for delirious minds and insane ideas to come to surface, sometimes having unforeseeable effects. One such case was Melchior Hoffman, an illiterate furrier from the region of Swabia. But, unlike Müntzer, who had voluntarily led his people to death in the Battle of Frankenhausen, Hoffman involuntarily contributed to a carnage in the city of Münster.

At first, in 1522, Hoffman converted to Lutheranism and became an itinerant preacher. But later he discovered Anabaptism, which fascinated him. To make matters worse, he believed that the persecutions he was subjected to were repaid by God with dreams, visions and signs. Thus, after eight years of preaching, persecutions and so-called revelations, Hoffman came to a very clear conception about the world: the end was approaching fast, the Reformation was the final battle between good and evil, Anabaptism was the outpouring of the spirit in the last days and God had great plans with his person. Even Joachimite influences can be distinguished in his writings, because he divided the history of the Church into three periods: the period of the apostles, the period of popes, and the period of the Reformation, started with Jan Hus. This was the time when the spirit of God was being poured upon people and the two witnesses of the Apocalypse revealed themselves to challenge the Antichrist. Parousia was going to be preceded by a revival of the apostolic Christianity through the work and the influence of two people: the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli and Hoffman himself – the two witnesses of the Apocalypse. Also, Jesus Christ would not descend on the Mount of Olives

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4.2.1. The anti-clerical messianisms

4.2.1. The anti-clerical messianisms

While the Papacy was busy demonizing Islam and the kings struggled to raise armies and money to confront the forces of evil near Jerusalem, a new type of apocalyptic manifestations erupted among the masses. This type of apocalypticism was a novelty because it did not target groups outside Christendom, but the church itself, the institution meant to represent God. The growing number of heresies, the growing interest in magic, astrology and the occult,

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2.2. The prophecy of the messianic emperor

2.2. THE PROPHECY OF THE MESSIANIC EMPEROR

Shortly after he came to power in 306, Emperor Constantine the Great promoted religious tolerance in order to stop the conflicts within the empire. But Constantine was not prepared to become a Christian; he only converted in 312 and continued to hold the pagan position of Pontifex Maximus (a title discarded by emperors, but later taken by the Papacy: the “Supreme Pontiff”). In the spring of 313 Constantine, together with Licinius, promulgated the Edict of Milan. Through this act he asked all governors of the provinces to stop all religious persecutions and the confiscated properties to be immediately returned. The edict did not declare Christianity as the official religion of the empire, but it only allowed religious freedom, so that anyone may worship any deity without being persecuted. However, through the Edict of Milan in 313 and the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 emanated by Emperor Theodosius, Christianity ended by becoming a reality first tolerated, and then a constitutive part of the empire. The tradition spread the idea that the Edict of Milan was the act through which tolerance toward the Christian religion was instituted, but Galerius issued an edict of tolerance in 311 as well.142

Constantine was far from being a saint. On the contrary; he committed unimaginable atrocities to secure his power, while the legalization of Christianity (together with the other beliefs) was nothing but a political scheme meant to bring peace within the empire and to gain the sympathy of his subjects.143 But, just as Cyrus the Great stood as a model for the image of the Messiah, the masses of Christians responded by idolizing Constantine the liberator. The emperor shifted the religious paradigm: Christians appreciated him, worshiped him, and even sanctified and began to celebrate him on the 21st of May. Indeed, the creation of legends regarding great personalities was a common practice. But the alliance between the church and the imperial institution so grossly altered and exaggerated the image of the emperor, that this became an integral part of the apocalyptic scenario. The Roman emperor turned into the predecessor of Christ’s return, while the Roman Empire was no longer seen as an apocalyptic

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