A couple days ago I wrote about how the conception of a messiah is present in nearly every major spiritual or religious tradition, even in those traditions which are separated by time and/or place so there is no chance that there was cross cultural sharing or syncretism. Many more messianic examples could be given from Joseph Campbell’s mythological work in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Rather than these mythologies representing the prophecy of a literal messianic person that will come in the future to save the world, I suggested that these mythologies were representative of a single deeper spiritual pattern, even a mystical messiah that is deeply inward in the human condition, deep in consciousness itself, in our fundamental nature and identity, which then becomes manifest in the outward mythologies, stories, and eschatological prophecies of the traditions. In this post I will consider how many of the qualities of the messiah in those mythologies may be part of the true inner messiah.
End Times or Latter-days
Wikipedia notes on the page for eschatology, or end times, “In the context of mysticism, the term [eschatology] refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and to reunion with the Divine.” I agree with that. In mysticism it is realized that what is often expressed in the mythologies of the spiritual traditions about the “end of the world” is not a literal prophecy about the end of the Earth, nations, wars, etc., but rather this is all a symbolic expression of the end of one’s egoic life.
It is the end of days for the old life, the “old creature,” and the beginning of a new life in union with God, at-one in God. It is the “after”-life, after the death of the ordinary egoic life that so much of humanity is a part of, caught up in the games of the “separate self,” the psychological construction which makes us think we are separate from all others and even from nature. Mystical eschatology is the end of the world for that ego, but the beginning of the world for the Divine Self, a realization of one’s deepest being in the eternal life of God. As Jesus taught:
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.-Mark 8:35
We lose the sense of having our own independent individual life and identity, and fall into at-one-ment with the Life and Name/Identity of God, which is the totality of the cosmos, and the life and consciousness that it being expressed in all beings here on Earth.
We are no longer in a contest to see how much we can protect or aggrandize the ego, or immortalize the ego, because it has essentially died. We’ve seen the ego’s mortality, and our identity has become disassociated from that ego as exclusively who we are, finding a truer identity that is much deeper and fundamental.
Many prophecies of the coming of a messiah are in the end times, at the end of history, the end of the world as we know it. In my own former Mormonism, the name of the majority tradition is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That “latter-day” part is in reference to being in the end times, the last days, just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus/Christ, their messiah. It is thought that we are all preparing now for that coming, for Jesus to return to the Earth to rule and reign, defeating all the wicked, and ushering in a millennial age of peace.
I perceive that this is all symbolic of that “death” of the egoic identity, and the realization of our at-one-ment in God. We realize that we are a manifestation of that Holy (Wholly) One. Our own consciousness is that “anointed One,” and the “coming” is that realization, that recognition, that awakening of our own deepest identity in God, the true Self, in Love. We realize our Buddha-nature, the Atman in us, our soul that is at-one in God or Ultimate Reality. We see Christ as our own deepest Self.
Armageddon and Apocalypse
The end times is often filled with death and destruction, fire and brimstone, wars and rumors of wars, disease, darkness, the moon turning to blood, pestilence, genocide, degeneracy, evil, wickedness, ignorance of God, chaos, and destruction.
I suggest that this is all in symbolic reference to the death of the ego. The ego fights its dissolution to the bitter end. The ego is that darkness, that evil, that ignorance of God, that which keeps us separate from God, which ignorance and unconsciousness causes us to do all manner of evil things, harming ourself and others. The ego is our disease, the disease that “infects” us all as the “self” emerges in the Fall of our childhood. It is the beginning of all dualism, division, splitting of the psyche into subject and object, seeing all beings as “other,” alienation, competition, etc.
When we begin to become aware of that ego, it begins to burn in the Refiner’s Fire, it begins to be consumed in the truth of that Light. It begins to dissolve, to die. But it wages a war to continue, to keep itself alive, to not die. It denies its death, as Becker described. It fights to stay alive, to stay in control, to be our head, to be the identity which we assume is ourself. But it slowly dies, it bleeds, it is mortal, and it “will surely die,” just as God promised.
When it dies from consciousness, there is an Apocalypse, a final destruction. It is the end of the world for the ego. A total and complete annihilation of the ego-self. It is gone, as the modern Christian mystic Thomas Merton once said, “as completely as smoke from a chimney.” It dies. Intriguingly, this final destruction is also an unveiling, which is what the word apocalypse actually means, also a revelation. The last book of the Bible in English is Revelation, being derived from the original Greek apokalypsis.
What is this unveiling, this revelation? It is of the inner messiah, the true Self, the truest deepest nature of one’s being in reality. When the ego-self construction in the mind dies, then what is left is what one truly is. The no self is the true Self.
Redeemer, Savior, Liberator
The messiah is often referred to as a redeemer, a savior, a liberator, one who will redeem us from all our sins, forgive us completely, saving us from death and destruction, one who will liberate us from imprisonment, from darkness, from error, wickedness, etc.
The inner messiah redeems us from our sins, from our “Fallen” condition. As Richard Rohr has pointed out, what we think of as “sin” is more like the symptoms of sin rather than the root cause. The root cause is our felt separation from God, being alienated from God’s Presence, feeling distant and apart. When the separate self of the ego falls away from consciousness, the true messianic Self is revealed which is perfectly and wholly at-One in God. The Fall is no more. We are no more apart from God, but One in God. Wholly at-One. And all the errors and sins and problems that we thought we have are completely withdrawn and are no more. They fall away from our consciousness together with the ego. We sense a profound sense of forgiveness, purified and cleansed from all our errors and delusions. It is all washed away.
Likewise, we are saved from the ego-self by the true Self. The true Self, our truest divine nature, saves us from the errors, problems, imperfections of the ego-self. In the recognition of the inner messiah, we experience salvation, redemption. We are brought back into the Presence of God.
We are liberated from the pain, darkness, depression, and separateness of the ego-self. We are freed from that limited and finite identity, which expands to fill the entire cosmos, all of nature, the whole world of beings and people. We are liberated from mortality, from identification with the body-mind which will surely die. We are no longer prisoners of the ego, it controlling us, being a false head, full of relativity and subjectivity. We realize the Truth directly, in our Self, and this Truth sets us free.
Peace & Harmony in a Millennial Age
When the ego passes away from consciousness, and the inner messiah is revealed, one experiences a peace that surpasses all understanding. I cannot explain it because it is not something that is possible to be written. It is an experience, a direct intuitive knowing, a part of pure being itself, not of words. One experiences Peace itself, the purest and most infinite Peace that exists in the cosmos. All one’s problems fall away, and one knows one’s Self in God forevermore. We experience the Prince of Peace, and realize it is us, and has always been us, our true Self.
But life is not done. Life continues on, and so begins the millennial age, the messianic age, the age to come, the world to come. This is the second half of life, the part of life where we know we are at-one in God, and our life and actions become the natural outflowing energy of God into the world. We have taken Christ’s “yoke” upon us, uniting ourselves in that name/identity of oneness in God, and this yoke is easy, and the burden light. For we simply do as the One in us shows us to do, as the One in us inspires us to do, in Love for all other beings and people and life and goodness in the world.
For we see them as our Self. Inasmuch as you do it unto any others, you do it unto me. This is the inner messiah, that One that is at-One with all people, beings, life, and creation everywhere. We begin to live that Life of God here and now, in the eternal present, which is where God and Reality is. There is no other life somewhere else. God’s Life is here and now, living itself through you and me. We become instruments in the hands of God to do God’s Will, having God’s Will engraved upon our heart and mind, as we have experienced our Self as a part of God, at-one in God.
This life is not all peace and quiet. There is still pain, there is still suffering, but we know whose we are, we know our true identity in that One, in the inner messiah, and we establish ourselves in that peace and equanimity, no matter what happens in the world, no matter the distress and turmoil of the world. We feel the suffering of others insofar as we are One in them, and we strive to alleviate their suffering, and bring more of the Peace we know in ourselves into the world.
Often the coming of the messiah is marked by a great gathering, a unification, a oneness, a solidarity of people, a comm-unity in comm-union. This is often the result of the awakening of the inner messiah in us. We fall into Love with all people everywhere, particularly the most impoverished, oppressed, and suffering. We bring them back in to the fold, excluding no one, connecting them back to that mystical Body of compassion, that One, showing them they are a part, belonging, at-one in us, that we are together part of the same unconditional Love. We are of “one heart and one mind,” and we “dwell in righteousness,” there being “no poor among us” (Moses 7:18).
The totality of humanity is recognized as our true family, and even beyond that to the animals and plants. We are all a part of Life. We are all living creatures, living expressions of the living God here and now in this world. We are all That. We don’t have to bring together all people into one geographic location, because we realize we already are One, and we are already joined together on this little clod of Earth suspended in this solar system. We are One even if we don’t think we are One, even if we are unconscious of this oneness. We can’t be separated from it, ever (Romans 8:38-39). The inner messiah reveals this to us.
But we sometimes reject this inner messiah. We refuse to know it. The ego refuses to die.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.-Matthew 23:37
In Judaism there is the tradition that the messiah will rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the “third temple.” I’ve written about this before.
Jesus said he would destroy the temple made with hands, and rebuild another made without hands (Mark 14:58; cf. Acts 7:48, 17:24, 2 Cor. 5:1). What did he mean by that? What temple is not made with human hands? It is perhaps the realization and recognition of our very own body, and the entire natural world, that is all the embodiment of the Divine, the manifestation of God, the incarnation of the Beloved. In the mystical experience we realize that we are the temple of God, and that God/Spirit lives in us (John 2:21; 1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16).
The messiah comes to “his” temple, and it is us (Malachi 3:1). We are that temple. The recognition of this Divine temple is its restoration, its rebuilding, its realization of its true identity in truth. The messiah is awakened in this temple of our very own Self, realized here and now, in this flesh, the Word made flesh in our flesh, yours and mine.
The Presence of God & the Kingdom
We live in union with the Life of God here and now; this is heaven here and now, and God’s Life is the eternal life that is living itself out here and now, in the present moment, in our very own being. This is part of the radical realization of the mystical experience.
Knowing God is an experience of extreme closeness or even entire union in God, at-one with God, in that Christic unitive nondual consciousness, which knows itself as God. It is perhaps the spiritual/conscious side of the whole cosmos becoming aware of itself. The one who knows and sees God is none other than that One in us, which knows its Self (see John 1:18, 6:46; 1 John 4:12; Matt. 11:27).
In the mystical experience we recognize that we live in the Presence of God here and now because there is nowhere else to live. There is nowhere else that there is life. Our life is God’s Life in expression, in manifestation, in incarnation, unfolding itself in the evolution of life on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the cosmos, even in all the forms of the cosmos. As Richard Rohr says, this is the primordial Incarnation in all things. The Word (Logos) becomes flesh, becomes form, becomes incarnate in all objects and lifeforms everywhere.
As Richard Rohr also says:
We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.
That awareness is what comes through mystical experience, often through contemplative practices or means that engender that contemplation (the temple of consciousness), through the falling away of the egoic separate self of the dualistic mind, and the realization of oneness, of the unitive nondual consciousness, which is our deepest and original identity in Love. The kingdom is here and now within us; it is not “lo there,” or “lo here” (Luke 17:21). We may become aware of this kingdom here and now, of the messiah within, of the “Christ within” (Luke 17:23).
This is God’s Kingdom, right here in our own experience of the world, where each and every one reigns as a king or queen, because the messiah rules inside them, this “anointed” consciousness, this Divine awareness, this unitive Love, this incarnation of God, this manifestation of God in and through us. When the messiah is revealed, it is unveiled within us, as our truest identity, beyond all ego and the false self psychological construction, and we are forevermore in the Presence of God, even if it becomes veiled again from our awareness.
This all sounds quite mystical and perhaps absurd by the more religiously-minded. “The messiah can’t be pointing to something in me, in us. That’s ridiculous! It’s too woo-woo, too sentimental, too metaphorical. It’s also too simple. It’s can’t be that simple. It’s not practical and concrete. We are looking for the real messiah, someone who will save us, a person who will actually liberate us physically, outwardly in the world.” And so the ego goes on.
The ego doesn’t know that the messiah rest and waits for us, our truest Self waits for us, waits for the ego to surrender itself, to fall away from consciousness, and for who we really are to shine as a Light into the world. For you are the Light of the world (Matthew 5:14)! Yes, you, and me, and each and every One. We are That!
It is our true Self, our deepest and most genuine nature, our eternal nature in this cosmos, at-one with Ultimate Reality itself. We are God-Reality-Self-Nature expressing itself here and now. The Light shines in darkness, and the darkness of ego comprehends it not (John 1:5), but this is the same Light that enlightens each and every being that comes into the world (John 1:9). When we realize this inner Light, this inner messiah, we will recognize it, for we will see it as it really is, Truth as it really is, and we will be like it, because it will be our truest Self (1 John 3:2).
The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.-attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
That One is in you and me. If we are to ever know this Messiah while we live, it will be knowing it within us, which reveals it in everyone everywhere. It is what brings us into Oneness with the whole world, with all of life, with all of being, with the whole cosmos. We will realize that this cosmos made us, and we are that cosmos, never separate from it, but manifestations of it.
Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return; and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.-Carl Sagan
As Jesus says in the Gospel of Thomas,
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father.
The living “Father” is this living Kosmos, that which is living in you and me right now. It is what is enabling you to read these very words. When you know your Self, you will know the “Father,” that it is what is living its Self through you and all beings right now, and you will become a conduit through which the Love of God may flow into the world, bringing peace, harmony, truth, goodness, beauty, light, and compassion to all beings everywhere.
There is an old Jewish story in the Talmud, which goes like this,
“When will the Messiah come?”… “Today, if you will listen to his voice.”–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_in_Judaism#cite_note-49
The Messiah is not something that we passively wait for in a distant future, but something which we can come to realize exists within us, as our very own truest divine nature. “He” comes today, if we will listen closely, and deeply, for that voice within, if we will contemplate our deepest nature, if we will “put off the natural man” of the ego-mind, and realize the Saint that is the very essence of our heart at-one in God (Mosiah 3:19).
There is no Christ on Earth now, nor anywhere else in the cosmos, but in you and me:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.–poem by Methodist minister Mark Guy Pearse and Quaker medical missionary Sarah Elizabeth Rowntree
See also this beautiful poem by Saint Symeon the New Theologian, a Byzantine Christian monk, about how we awaken in Christ’s body as Christ awakens in us. St. Symeon is shown in the icon at the top of this essay, with Christ depicted as being within his “heart,” his center, his soul, his true nature, his essence, his true Self at-one in God or Ultimate Reality.
2 thoughts on “The Mythological Messiah and its Mystical Qualities”
“It is the aim of religion to lift us from our momentary meaningless provincialism to the significance and status of the eternal, to transform the chaos and confusion of life to that pure and immortal essence which is its ideal possibility. If the human mind so changes itself as to be perpetually in the glory of the divine light, if the human emotions transform themselves into the measure and movement of the divine bliss, if human action partakes of the creativity of the divine life, if the human life shares the purity of the divine essence, if only we can support this higher life, the long labour of the cosmic process will receive its crowning justification and the evolution of centuries unfold its profound significance. The divinising of the life of man in the individual and the race is the dream of the great religions. It is the moksha of the Hindus, the nirvana of the Buddhists, [baqa of the Muslims] the kingdom of heaven of the Christians [the messianic age of the Jews]. It is the realization of one’s native form, the restoration of one’s integrity of being. Heaven is not a place where God lives but an order of being, a world of spirit where the ideas of wisdom, love and beauty exist eternally, a kingdom into which we all may enter at once in spirit, which we can realize fully in ourselves and in society though only by long and patient effort. The world reaches its consummation when every man knows himself to be the immortal spirit, the son of God, and is it. Till this goal is reached, each saved individual [who has actualized divine union] is the centre of the universal consciousness. He continues to act without the sense of ego. To be saved is not to be moved from this world. Salvation is not an escape from life. The individual works in the cosmic process no longer as an obscure and limited ego, but as the centre of the divine or universal consciousness embracing and transforming into harmony all individual manifestations. It is to live in the world with one’s inward being profoundly modified. The soul takes possession of itself and cannot be shaken from its tranquility by the attractions and attacks of the world.”
Quoted from ‘An Idealist View of Life, ‘by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Note: He was the President of India 1962–67, Vice President 1952–62 and a Professor at Oxford University 1936–52. In 1962, I was introduced to Dr. Radhakrishnan by John Kenneth Galbraith, then the U.S. Ambassador to India.
Beautiful quote, Ron. Thank you.