The Messiah is Within
The concept of the Messiah is a divine archetype or aspect of God that exists at the very heart of our being. The role of Mythic Hero and World Saviour is a latent potential that lies within all of us.
Here we explore a recurrent theme that is found in most of the world's great faith traditions and also forms an integral part of the prophesies of the World's religions. In the world of religion there are few concepts which are able to excite such passion from the faithful or else elicit such disdain from secular people. What we are talking about here is the idea of the expectation and future coming of a special person who will play a decisive role in the unfolding of the events of the prophesies and in bringing about of their full realization. This expected or chosen one is given many different names by the different religions of this world. To Jews he is the Messiah, to Muslims he is the Mahdi, to Christians the Second Coming, to Hindus the Kalki and to Buddhists he is the Maitreya. Also Zoroastrians await the Saoshyant and even Taoist/Confucian scriptures talk of the coming of the Future True Man. It is however reasonable to suppose that all these different names and titles are really referring to the same person. If we take it as our starting point that all world religion is really worshipping the same God and asking after the same truth, then all the world's prophesies are coming from the same source and so are really describing the same set of events and circumstances. Therefore all the World's religions all really waiting for the same person. So this person has the role of acting as the catalyst and instigator of the events prophesied. There follows a discussion and an interpretation of the prophesies for this long awaited person. I should mention here that for clarity and succinctness I'll use the term Messiah or else 'The Expected One' to mean all the other epithets as well. That is, instead of Messiah or 'Expected One', one might equally substitute the name Mahdi, Second Coming or Maitreya etc. with equal standing and also with the same meaning.
First I'll answer a question concerning the expected one that I am often asked or else I am sometimes led to in my discussions with people in this sort of thing. The question is this, 'Is the Messiah[or Expected One], going to be a single person or is it going to be a collection of people?'. The best and most practical answer to this question is to suppose that it's going to be a large collection of people all working towards the realization of the prophesies. That is, to suppose that everyone has the Messiah, Mahdi or Christ within them and that it is through a collective effort that the role of the Messiah is fulfilled. One of the roles of the World Saviour is to save the planet. There is these days in the present age, definitely a planet to be saved and obviously one person isn't by himself or herself going to save the world. So therefore it has got to be a group effort involving millions of people and more. With this interpretation of the prophesies, the Messiah is therefore seen as an archetype or essential aspect of our innermost being which can be activated and brought to the surface of our consciousness. It is like a dormant potential that exists within us all, which may under certain conditions be awakened and incorporated into our being. That is, if we choose, we may express through our actions the attributes of the Messiah and take on his roles in our lives. Through this exercise, in a sense we are manifesting the divine and also personifying a powerful aspect of God. We become the preserver of life and the creator of a new world. However this interpretation of the prophesies for the Messiah also leaves open the possibility for a single person or a small group of people, to play some critical role in the unfolding of the prophesies. At the same time, this person(s) is not acting not alone but in concert with a large segment of humanity; with the common aim of saving the planet and bringing about peace on Earth.
For the rest of this section I'll be talking in the singular purely for the sake of conformity with common usage of terms. So when I say 'Messiah', I really mean 'Messiahs'. Now, we turn to examining the descriptions of the 'Expected One' contained in the various scriptures of world religion. Who and what is this person? What is his role? and what is his meaning in relation to the prophesies?
When we examine the prophesies and read what they have to say, we may gain a composite picture of what the Messiah is all about. What the scriptures seem to be describing is a peace bringer and unifier of mankind. Also he is a bringer of justice and arbiter of disputes. So for example in the Bible we have the following passages from Isaiah...
'He [The Messiah] shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more' - Isaiah 2:2-4
'The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord...' - Isaiah 11:2
And in the scriptures of Islam we find in the holy text called the Nahjul Bhalaga...
"The Imam who will create a world state will make the ruling nations pay for their crimes against society. He will bring succor to humanity. He will take out the hidden wealth from the breast of the earth and will distribute it equitably amongst the needy deserving." -
In the ancient and influential religion of Zoroastrianism, the expected one is known by various names. For example he is called the Saoshyant which means 'Victorious Benefactor' and he is also known as the 'Astavat erata', which means 'World Renovator'.
Finally the one who's coming has long been prophesied is also a world teacher and revealer of important truths and ultimate mysteries. In Buddhist scriptures the Maitreya is so described...
' I am not the first Buddha [ awakened one ] who has come upon the Earth, nor will I be the last. In due time another Buddha will rise in the world, a holy one, a supreme enlightened one, endowed with auspicious wisdom embracing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a ruler of gods and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths, which I have taught you. He will establish his law [ Religion ], glorious in its origins, glorious at the climax and glorious at the goal in the spirit and the letter. He will proclaim a righteous life wholly perfect and pure, such as I now proclaim. His disciples will number many thousands, while mine number many hundreds. He will be known as Maitreya .' - Buddha Gautama
And also prophesies in Islam about the Imam Mahdi say the following...
"He will teach you simple living and high thinking. He will make you understand that virtue is a state of character which is always a mean between the two extremes, and which is based upon equity and justice. He will revive the teaching of the Holy Qur'an and the traditions of the Holy Prophet after the world has ignored them as dead letters.... He will protect and defend himself with resources of science and supreme knowledge. His control over these resources will be complete. He will know how supreme they are and how carefully they will have to be used. His mind will be free from desires of bringing harm and injury to humanity. Such a knowledge to him will be like the property which was wrongly possessed by others and for which he was waiting for the permission to repossess and use." -
Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 141, 187
Generally what the prophesies are describing is a potent agent of change and transformation. Someone who comes along to address our deepest human yearnings, concerns and fears. In a sense he is a symbol who represents our desires for a better world and a happy outcome for the current world situation. He acts like a beacon, giving people the hope that one day in the future all the wrongs of our human condition will be rectified and that the struggles of daily life will be shown to be ultimately meaningful.
This diagram is meant to show that the prophesies of all the world's different religions fit together like the different pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle to form a coherent composite picture. At the centre of all these prophesies are those that deal with the 'Expected One' or the long awaited World Saviour. So at the centre of the diagram is shown all the different names given to this enigmatic figure by the respective religions. It is proposed here that just as all the prophesies in the different religions of this world are all describing the same set of events and circumstances; so it is that all the different names for the 'Expected One' are really describing the same person.
As discussed earlier, it is sensible to try and understand the idea of the Messiah or the World Saviour as something which can be found within all of us. A sort of inner potential that may express itself at times of transition and upheaval. This is what I mean when I say that the Messiah is within. Of course many religious people, particularly in the orthodox sense, are expecting the arrival of a single person. This is the case with most Jews and Muslims. Fantastical as it may seem, the Evangelical Christians of this world are expecting Jesus to literally appear in the sky. Other interpreters of the prophesies also predict some sort of supernatural event, the coming of some sort of superman or magical figure. Ultimately, the question of whether the 'Expected One' is going to be a single person or a collection of people is really an open one. What I'm really trying to say here is that for all practical intents and purposes it would be unwise to pin all our hopes on the coming of some all powerful saviour figure to rectify the problems of this world; rather it is better that we should take steps to improve things ourselves, alone and also acting together with others. I believe the idea that everyone is God goes hand in hand with the idea that everyone has the Messiah within them and is therefore a potential world saviour. When a person fully realizes that he or she is God, then this leads naturally to the desire for that person to express ones divinity in constructive ways. The awakening and manifesting of the Messiah archetype, which lies latent within us all, is one way that this may be done. Also because a strong case can be made that currently we are nearing the end of the age or historical cycle and therefore the present times are the times prophesied; then to suppose that one is the Messiah is both appropriate and opportune.
We have already examined descriptions of the roles played by the 'Expected One' found in the scriptures of the World's religions. Here I shall examine some prophesies which shed light on the character and status of the Messiah before the person begins to start playing his or her alloted role. In Judaism we find the passage describing the Messiah to be, in the book of Isaiah...
'He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.' - Bible NIV
And in Islam, in the Nahjul Balagha, the Imam Mahdi is so described...
He, in the beginning, will be like a poor stranger unknown and uncared for, and Islam then will be in the hopeless and helpless plight of an exhausted camel who has laid down its head and is wagging its tail. With such a start he will establish an empire of God in this world. He will be the final demonstration and proof of God's merciful wish to acquaint man with the right ways of life. " - Khutba 187
These passages seem to portray an unlikely candidate for Messiahship. A despised social outcast goes on to save the world and bring about peace on Earth. However, if we assume that everyone has the spirit of the Messiah within them and that potentially we may all help to save the world, then these prophesies may be better understood in a symbolic way. That is, these passages are describing a process of separation and alienation that often accompanies the spiritual journey and mystical quest. The process by which a person is transformed from a normal and mundane state of being, into one of the mythological and god like, will often and perhaps inevitably involve a phase of isolation and relative solitude. During this time of social withdrawal, the relationship between the spiritual aspirant or the would be Messiah, and his or her fellow human beings, may be one of either unilateral or mutual disdain, perhaps even hostility. We see this time and time again in the spiritual and mystical literature. For instance we recall Buddha's quest as a lone mendicant, Jesus' time spent alone in the desert and Muhammad's retreats to the cave on mount Hira. Also this is a recurring theme in world mythology, the descent into the dark forest, the voyage into unexplored waters and the vision quest into the unknown. I believe that when a person awakens the Messiah within, either through fate or consciously, then likewise that person will go through a journey of self realization that also involves a period of separation from the rest of society. Indeed, anyone who professes a desire to save the world or to help to bring about peace on Earth, will most likely invite ridicule from his or her peers and also alienate a lot of other people as well. So the Messiah's separation from society may not be through choice but rather through personal and practical considerations. The Messiah archetype is a powerful potential that lies within us all but at the same time it is a terrific source of energy that if manifested without care, may be terribly disruptive upon the social fabric. When minor Messiahs make their appearance and state their objectives then this will most likely annoy and irritate a lot of people. When major Messiahs appear then they can literally rock the status quo and bring about revolutionary change. Either way, the emergence and manifestation of the Messiah archetype will be rejected by most 'normal' people and will not be tolerated by the authorities and institutions if its impact is sufficiently great. Whether you believe the Messiah is a single person or many people, initially the Messiah(s) is not going to be universally accepted. The idea of a person trying to realize in his or her own life the archetype of the Messiah will therefore necessarily be accompanied by a process of alienation and social rejection. This seem to me a reasonable interpretation of the two passages above, being examined here.
Finally to recap, what I have attempted to present, is a way of understanding the idea of the Messiah or 'Expected One' that is most useful for addressing the greatest concerns of present times. This is in counteraction against those fantastical and nonsensical views of the Messiah, which lead to false hopes, inaction and varying states of learned helplessness. The concept of the Messiah represents something that is real and potent. It is a fundamental archetype of the self and a prime aspect of God that lies dormant within us all; normally existing in a latent state waiting for the appropriate opportunity to manifest itself. If this is the case then surely the perilous and disharmonious conditions of the world today are the correct context for the bringers of peace, the servants of justice and the unifiers of humankind, to prepare themselves and play their respective roles. The Messiah is within all of us, so in a real sense everyone is the Messiah.