Saturday, November 22, 2014

Diagnosing Apocalypse Fever

Throughout the world there is a cry for redemption. This cry is expressed in a variety of ways. For Jews it is the coming of the Mashiach, for Christians it is the return of a Savior and for Shi’ite Muslims it is the 12 Imam who is known as the Mahdi.
Recent news articles have been coming out which highlight the rising Messianic fervor amongst nearly all human populations and with this comes an apocalyptic fervor. Each year in the United States there is a new prediction concerning the end of days and every year corresponding with these dubious predictions there are hundreds of thousands of people who embrace the message. Never mind that all of the predictions always turn out to be a failure. People have a strong desire to believe in anything that a would-be newspaper preacher (someone who correlates the Biblical narrative with the daily newspaper headlines) spouts off in the name of God.
Typically this behavior is demonstrated in its most extreme forms in the Christian religious world. However, Judaism is not immune to apocalyptic fever neither. Recently, the late Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri predicted that the Mashiach would come after the death of Ariel Sharon. When Ariel’s death occurred thousands anticipated the imminent arrival of their Redeemer. Yet he has never arrived. Rabbi Glazerson also made correlations concerning the coming of Mashiach and the death of Sharon based on the Bible Codes. These predictions aroused a hope in many people and yet when the events foretold never came to pass the teachers who espoused them were never reprimanded by the public rather they simply moved on to another method of subjective date setting.
Why is this scenario continually played out and why are so many people waiting for an individual to come and save them?
There are a variety of reasons why people embrace messages of hope or doom. Here are just a few:
1)  Apocalypticism is one form of response to the collective instability of an age which experiences ultimate threats to its existence.  In our modern era we are faced with strained relationships between countries, the breakdown of the economy, growing challenges to the old religious paradigms, etc. The fundamentalist will view all of these issues as a message of doom and therefore a prelude to redemption. The idea that: “It can’t get any worse than this,” is used as a justification for an apocalyptic mania.
2)  Apocalyptic thought is common among the politically, socio-economically and emotionally disenfranchised and is, “necessarily rooted in private dramas of great significance and pain.”  Whenever people feel excluded from the mainstream of society their egos build a protective fence of self-righteousness to fortify and protect their perceptions of being a persecuted minority. The justification of being a minority is perceived as something that one must endure for being “correct” or “in the truth” until a Savior comes to dissolve their problems and prove their correctness to the majority whom they alone are powerless to sway.
4)  Apocalypticism is a political motivator and a leverage of control for the ruling elite.  Those who are in power are compelled to stay in power. One of the techniques of manipulating the masses is to frame a context of bringing the people together under a banner of united purpose and shared destiny. This occurs in every setting; such as politics- i.e. the Shas in Iran and the government promotes the apocalypticism of the coming Mahdi to generate passion and conviction for a purpose set by the government authority. In the United States political leaders will push their agendas by quoting the Bible to appeal to a sense of moral purpose and religious obligation. Churches throughout the world preach their apocalyptic vision to bring laity into alignment with Church doctrine and dogma as well as to attract new member via proselytizing through fear.
5)  Apocalypticism is a phenomenon of degenerate mental cognizance.  It has been aptly demonstrated that apocalyptic mania regularly occurs as a symptom of hysteria and mental disorders. Those who are not in touch with the main consensus reality will create an alternative reality by adopting extremist ideals of fundamentalist groups. A common culprit is Bi-polar disorder which in many cases allows only a “black or white” approach to the perception of reality and negates the cognitive ability to perceive the world in shades of grey or generalities. Other studies have also shown that apocalypticism can create mental disorder where none was previously evident.
There are likely many other causes for Messianic fervor and Apocalypticism amongst human beings. Typically the factors all revolve around an aberrant ego and a manifestation of narcissism. It is obvious that this type of world-view and entrenched ideology is antithetical to the process of spiritual growth and development for both the individual person and the collective of society.
In Judaism we must understand that Mashiach is not the restoration of a monarchy- note: this form of Messianism is rooted in nostalgia for the past which revises the perception of history with a fanciful revision of utopian ideals. The Mashiach is a state of consciousness instead of an actual personage. This state of consciousness is placed at the Sefirah of Tiferet which represents a balancing of all of the Middot (emotional attributes). Thus the proper embrace of Mashiach is one of internal balance and inner awareness. The antithesis of Mashiach of Tiferet is the externalized perception of Mashiach.  This externalized Mashiach negates the inner self in favor of the dysfunctional concept of obfuscating personal responsibility and refinement in favor of a Savior who will come and oppress those who disagree with one’s perceptions.