Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Messiahs-So Many Others

          Nearly every religion on the planet seems to have messiahs. Hinduism has its own particular variant of the messiah.

    In Hinduism, Kalki is the tenth and final Avatar (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The name Kalki is often a metaphor for eternity or time. The origins of the name probably lie in the Sanskrit word ‘kalka’ which refers to dirt, filth, or foulness and hence denotes the ‘destroyer of foulness’ or ‘annihilator of ignorance’.
   Kalki is expected to establish a new era based on truth, righteousness, humanism and goodness, called Satya Yuga.

     Ismaili Khojas, a Shia Muslim group from Gujarat and Sindh and followers of Aga Khan, believe in the 10 incarnations of Vishnu and, according to their tradition, Imam Ali, the son-in-law of prophet Muhammad was Kalki.

     Members of the Bahá'í Faith have interpreted the prophecies of Kalki's arrival as being references to the arrival of Bah’u’llah which has played a major role in the growth of this religion in India.
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believe their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the Kalki Avatar.
     In Buddhism, Maitreya (Metteyya, Jampa), is foretold as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he (or she) is referred to as Ajita Bodhisattva. Ajita Bodhisattva is either an enlightened (bodhi) existence (sattva) or an enlightenment-being or sometimes a ‘heroic-minded one’ (satva) who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma (natural law).
 Lotus Sutra

     According to some, Maitreya to Christians is known as the Christ, and expect his imminent return. Jews await him as the Messiah. Hindus look for the coming of Krishna (a "complete avatar (incarnation) of the preserver-god, Vishnu. Buddhists expect him as Maitreya Buddha, and Muslims anticipate the Imam Mahdi or Messiah.
     There are variations on the Buddhist Maitreya. In ‘mainstream’ Buddhism, the Messiah is Maitreya, meaning either 'The World Unifier' or simply 'The Friend.' A very human God-Man whom Buddha predicted will be a greater Buddha than himself.
     In the Mahayanan school of Buddhism, the Messiah is Amida, great Christ - like Bodhisattva.
Several sects of Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism foresee a variant of the Buddhist Maitreya appearing after 8 August 1988 (8/8/88).

     The origins of Taoism (Daoism) can be traced back to the 3rd or 4th century BC and, like many religions, it has its own set of scriptures, the main one simply referred to as the ‘Tao’. Along with other texts, the full spectrum of Taoist canon is known as the Daozang.
     The word ‘Tao’ comes from the character in the Chinese alphabet of the same name, meaning ‘way’ or ‘path’. Almost from its beginning, Taoism developed eschatological ideas and a number of its scriptures predict the end of the world cycle, the deluge, epidemics, and coming of the savior/messiah Li Hong.
     Taoism has never been a unified religion and it is often difficult to be precise as to exactly what Taoists believe. Generally, Tao deals with the flow of the universe, or the force behind natural order that keeps all things balanced and in order. Some Eastern religions refer to this as the ‘yin and yang’ of the universe, which can also express itself as the equal forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

     Messianic Taoist texts mention the Divine King known as Qingtong whose island of Fangzhu was the location of the Hot Water Valley and the fabled Fusang Tree.
     Qingtong plays an important role in Taoist millenarian texts through his connection with Li Hong, the end-times savior believed by some sects to be an avatar or reincarnation of the sage Laozi. Especially associated with the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479 AD), Li Hong was said to ‘govern a kingdom of absolute equality, peace and happiness…available to all the virtuous survivors of the apocalypse’.

     This Taoist messianism traces its roots back to the earliest sages, Confucius, Laozi and Mencius who all believed in a type of savior king who would rule in the ‘the age of perfect virtue’. A new savior sage or king was expected to appear cyclically every 500 years.

    Li Hong is the messianic figure in religious Taoism prophesied to appear at the end of the world cycle to rescue the ‘chosen people’ (see post: The Chosen Ones) who would be distinguished by certain talismans, practices and virtues.
     Myths surrounding Li Hong took shape in literature during the Han dynasty and he is depicted in the Taoist ‘Divine Incantations Scripture’ as an ideal leader who would reappear to set right heaven (tian) and earth (dì) at a time of upheaval and chaos.
     Over the years, prophesies concerning Li Hong's appearance have been used to legitimize numerous rebellions and insurgencies, all of which rallied around a Li Hong. Several prophets began to call themselves Li Hong and were executed by the authorities for ‘deceiving the masses’. Eventually, the figure of Li Hong was usurped by those in power and called the ‘Imperial Messiah’.

     Zoroastrianism (Mazdaism, Magianism) is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra) and was formerly among the world's largest religions. The religion was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in the eastern part of ancient Persia.
        In Zoroastrian eschatology, Saoshvant (he ‘one who brings benefit’) brings about the final renovation of the world, the Frashokereti. Saoshvant, the Man of Peace, battles the forces of evil. In the final battle with evil, the metal in the hills and mountains will melt and it will be upon the earth like a river but the righteous will not be harmed.
         According to Zoroastrian tradition, three future saviours will appear, one for the end of each 1,000-year period that comprise the last 3,000 years of the world. All three will be born of maidens, conceived while their mothers bathed in a lake that miraculously preserved the seed of the prophet Zoroaster himself. The first will be named Hushedar, the second Hushedarmah, and the third will be Saoshyant who will lead humanity in the final battle against falsehood.
       Eventually, Ahura Mazda will triumph, and his agent Saoshyant will resurrect the dead, their bodies will be restored to eternal perfection and their souls will be cleansed and reunited with God. Time will end and truth/righteousness and immortality will thereafter be everlasting.
There are some messianic beliefs which, to most, seem quite peculiar.

     The Rastafari movement (Rasta) is a spiritual movement which began in the 1930s in Jamaica (see post: The Chosen Ones). Adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (1930–1974), as Jesus incarnate, the Second Advent, or the reincarnation of Jesus. Members of the Rastafari believe that Emperor Haile Selassie was not killed in the Ethiopian civil war but will return to save Earth (and in particular, people of African descent).

     The Cargo Cult believes in a messiah figure called John Frum on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. The religion center began in the late 1930s at the time when Vanuatu was known as the New Hebrides. The origins of the belief is unclear but in some versions of the story, a native named Manehivi, under the alias John Frum, began appearing among the native people of Tanna while dressed in a Western coat, making promises of houses, clothes, food, and transport. Another story suggests that John Frum was a kava-induced spirit vision.
John Frum Cross

     He is often depicted as an American World War II serviceman who will bring wealth and prosperity to the people if they follow him. He is sometimes portrayed as black, other times as white. One reporter was told, ‘'E look like you. 'E got white face. 'E tall man. 'E live 'long South America’. When asked if it was rational for them to be still waiting for Frum to re-appear after 50 years, one adherent said that Christianity had been waiting 2,000 years, so waiting for Frum was much more rational than that.
     The movement gained popularity in the early 1940s when 300,000 American troops were stationed in the New Hebrides during the Second World War, bringing with them large amounts of supplies, or ‘cargo’. After the war, and the departure of the Americans, followers of John Frum built symbolic landing strips to encourage American airplanes to once again land and bring them ‘cargo’.
     The cult is still active today. The followers believe that John Frum will come back on a February 15 (the year of his return is not known), a date which is observed as "John Frum Day" in Vanuatu.

     The Prince Philip Movement is a religious sect followed by the Yaohnanen tribe also on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu. The Yaohnanen believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort to Queen Elizabeth II, is a divine being. a pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit and brother of John Frum.
     According to ancient tales, the son travelled over the seas to a distant land, married a powerful lady and would in time return. The villagers had observed the respect accorded to Queen Elizabeth II by colonial officials and concluded that her husband, Prince Philip, must be the son from their legends.
    When the cult formed is unclear, but it is likely that it was sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. Its beliefs were strengthened by the royal couple's official visit to Vanuatu in 1974, when a few villagers had the opportunity to observe the Prince from afar.

     Messianism in native Africa has been seen beginning mostly in the 19th century and have generally been associated with a desire to seek modifications, through spiritual agencies, in the social structure that has usually been imposed onto the group. The loss of tribal land has been a significant predisposing factor in the origin of some of these movements. The goal in most of these movements was to restore to its followers a stable orientation, sense of satisfaction and relief, and abundant meaningfulness of life.
An African god of Lightening and Thunder
   In South Africa, one of the first recorded movements advocated the reversal of social roles by a return to the past. It was centered around a Xsosa tribe member called Mukana or Nxele, during the fifth Kaffir war of l8l8-1819. Mukana promoted the notion of an African God, Dalidipu, who was claimed to be stronger than the white man's God.
     The leader taught that the African God would punish the white God and all Christians, and that he, the leader, was the instrument of the native God (that is, he was the messiah) to destroy all the Europeans, and to bring back to life all Africans who had been killed in the wars with the Europeans. Many followers flocked to the movement but the early death of the leader led to the disintegration of the specific idea of an almighty African God and the movement died.

     There have been many more messiahs in different cultures over the years.

     The Aztec/Mayan Messiah is called Quetzalcoatl - an olive-skinned man with a white beard and followers in red. Quetzalcoatl is one of the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, the four Tezcatlipocas, who each preside over one of the four cardinal directions. Over the West presides the White Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, the god of light, mercy and wind.

     Some Mormons believe that Quetzalcoatl, who has been described as a white, bearded god who came from the sky and promised to return, was actually Jesus Christ. According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus visited the American natives after his resurrection.

     A controversial theory suggests that Quetzalcoatl is a being that is shared across many cultures including Egyptian, Aztec, Mayan and Olmec. The stories of a bearded white man bringing ‘knowledge’ are alleged to be common and originating from a central source or ‘master’ culture. (Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock, 1995).

     In the North American native Sioux mythology, the Messiah would be a man in a red cloak coming from the East. But in 1890, a different messiah appeared. Confined to reservations and in a desperate attempt to return to the days of their glory, many Sioux sought salvation in a new mysticism preached by a Paiute shaman called Wovoka.

     Emissaries from the Sioux in South Dakota traveled to Nevada to hear his words. Wovoka called himself the Messiah and prophesied that the dead would soon join the living in a world in which the Indians could live in the old way surrounded by plentiful game. A tidal wave of new soil would cover the earth, bury the whites, and restore the prairie.

     To hasten the event, the Indians were to dance the Ghost Dance. Many dancers wore brightly colored shirts emblazoned with images of eagles and buffaloes. These ‘Ghost Shirts’ they believed would protect them from the bluecoats' bullets. During the fall of 1890, the Ghost Dance spread through the Sioux villages of the Dakota reservations, revitalizing the Indians and bringing fear to the whites. What resulted was a massacre of the natives by the panicked soldiers – The Massacre at Wounded Knee of 1890.
Mass Grave at Wounded Knee-1890
     The Indonesian Messiah has been said to be the twelfth-century Indonesian prophet, Djojobojo, sometimes called the ‘Nostradamus of Indonesia’, who foresaw the coming of a great Spiritual King from the West to come after the Dutch and Japanese occupations, and possibly end of the rule of Indonesian dictators, Sukarno and Suharto.

     Another native North American tribal group, the Hopi, call their Messiah Pahana, the 'true white brother' from the East will wear a red cap and cloak and bring two helpers holding the sacred symbols - the swastika, the cross and the power symbol of the Sun. He will restore the Hopi Indian version of the Dharma. The true Pahana is the Lost White Brother of the Hopi.
Hopi Kachinas
     Most versions have it that the Pahana or Elder Brother left for the east at the time that the Hopi entered the Fourth World and began their migrations. However, the Hopi say that he will return again and at his coming the wicked will be destroyed and a new age of peace, the Fifth World, will be ushered in. Pahana will bring with him a missing section of a sacred Hopi stone in the possession of the Fire Clan and he will come wearing red.

     Traditionally, Hopis are buried facing eastward in expectation of the Pahana who will come from that direction. The legend of the Pahana seems intimately connected with the Aztec/Mayan story of Quetzalcoatl.
New Zealand Maori
     In New Zealand, over a dozen Maori chieftains from the nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries have laid claim to the title of ‘Maori Messiah’.
     Some nomads of Central Asian call their messiah the White Burkhan. One of the Burkhanist deities is Ak-Burkhan, or ‘White Burkhan’." Burkhan means ‘god’ or ‘buddha’ in Mongolic languages, yet Burkhanism is not considered Buddhist, as the term is also used in shamanistic nomenclature.

He will come when the people of the steppes have abandoned their ancient gods. He will come to offer them and the entire human race a spiritual rebirth. Ak-Burkhan (White Burkhan) is depicted as an old man with white hair, a white coat, and white headgear, who rides a white horse. Possibly analogous to the Mongolian ‘white old man’ Tsagan Ebugen, symbol of good fortune.

     The Eskimo (Inuit) Messiah is described by the prophets of the Arctic as an olive-skinned man with long beard and white hair who comes from the East. Is this Quetzalcoatl (now far from Mesoamerica) once again?
Stone Bust of Quetzalcoatl
     All these messiahs have one thing in common. They arrive in times of trouble to ‘set right’ what is wrong in the world. It is such a common theme, a man (most often) who is a bringer of knowledge, olive-skinned and bearded, who arrives ‘from the east’.
     Perhaps there once was a real messiah and the legend lives on, often inspiring others and often being usurped by religious leaders or politicians who follow their own special agenda.

     *Messiahs: subject of research for the novel The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle

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