A Cure for Messianic Madness
As we ease into the 21st Century, many people are worried about Messianic Madness. There are plenty of nuts out there, convinced of the immanent arrival of a Messiah who will swoop out of the sky on a white donkey and miraculously save us and transform the world into Paradise. And there are plenty of fundamentalist religious fanatics preparing for the terror and mayhem predicted by various apocalyptic prophecies and end-of-days beliefs.
This is certainly something to be concerned about, especially here in Israel. Jerusalem is a spiritual magnet that draws droves of messianic maniacs to its holy sites. Throughout Jewish history many innocent people have been harmed by the hysteria, confusion and disillusionment caused by false Messiahs and warped belief-systems.
It's easy to understand why people are attracted to visions of Paradise, to belief-systems which teach that the world will be a more perfect place in 'the end of days' - 'when the Messiah comes'. It's good to be optimistic, to hope and pray for the 'story of the world' to have a happy ending, and to seek visions of a bright future for our planet.
But messianic visions and prophecies usually contain apocalyptic horrors - Armageddon, Gog and Magog - World War III, Death and Destruction on a global scale - before the 'remaining few' attain Salvation and Eternal bliss. Thus the danger of messianic-vision-seekers becoming schizophrenic or bipolar - hopeful and starry-eyed from the Light which will shine in the End of Days, but fearful of the Darkness, Destruction and Death which necessarily precedes Messiah's arrival.
Here's my prescription for avoiding this malady. If Messiah means a bright future for us individually and collectively, isn't this ultimately what all vision-seekers want? But does this bright future have to come about only according to the script and scenario prophesied in the messianic visions of my favorite religion or belief-system? If we reached the bright future in a way I didn't expect or anticipate, would I be able to realize that I am living right now in the bright Present and accept and appreciate this fact?
Both the ancient mystical teachings of the Kabbalah and the modern world-view of contemporary Science present us with a vision of this world transforming and evolving constantly, and in an infinite number of different ways. And this incredible creative process is happening all the time, whether we're aware of it or not. Scientific theories of evolution show a highly creative and innovative evolutionary drive in nature. Kabbalists see this creative drive as God uniting with Creation in one great partnership, one gradual process of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) which organizes and pushes all Life toward greater complexity and ever-higher orders of consciousness.
So this world is indeed 'getting better all the time'. But chaos and entropy also have a part in the story. They dissolve and break down the order and organization of tikkun, and thus in this physical world - 'it can get much worse' (and often does). Both principles are true, because it's getting better all the time and it's getting worse all the time too. In fact, it can't get better unless it gets worse first.
Order is always plucked out of chaos. There are always two opposite currents flowing through the Universe, the 'upward' push of organization and order (Tikkun, Life); and the 'downward' pull of entropy and breakdown (Chaos, Death). All change and growth is always both good news and bad news. Ken Wilber calls this truth 'the dialectic of progress'.
Good News and Bad News
The modern world-view sees this Universe as being so vast, complex, and dynamically interconnected that literally an infinite amount of changes are happening right now (or at any moment of time). How this world is changing and evolving, producing incredible and countless forms of complex life-forms, possessing inquisitive minds, and holy souls is awesome and amazing. The first prescription for messianic health is for a little humility - to acknowledge that the details of the global transformation and evolution which is talking place right now are beyond the capacity of any mind to grasp fully.
Messianic Madness is thinking that its possible to know and predict how the world will achieve the messianic transformation into the Paradise we are hoping for. I am deluded if I believe that I can predict all that the future will bring, and especially if I think that I have the only recipe for the bright future that will be when Messiah comes. When this form of Messianic Madness is severe, its symptoms can include violent and hateful acts against anything perceived as standing in the way of my Messiah and the new order that I want him to bring to the world.