The Fires Below New Jerusalem

The Fires Below New Jerusalem
The Fires Below New Jerusalem, 2015

In almost all expressions of Abrahamic religion there can be found the idea of a Messianic era-to-come. Despite minor variations, this vision inevitably presents a future state of worldly perfection; a time and place in which the faults of the current world are cleansed and the earth is transformed into an ideal finality. Inherent in this concept is the premise that there exists an apotheosis of the world; an ideal disparate from our current incarnation.

In Judaism this idea manifests itself as the arrival of the referenced Messiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In Christian eschatology the idealized future takes the form of age of peace, where destruction itself is bound. In Islam the Messianic Age is marked by the return of Imam Mahdi and the Christ figure who together usher in an age of universal religiosity through Islam. Indicative of the pervasiveness of this concept, a no less potent secular version of this idea also exists. Such an “end of history” can be found equally underpinning systems otherwise as divergent as communism, western liberalism, and fascism. In all depictions, religious or secular, the distinguishing characteristic is that this static future remains distinct from any realized spiritual reality.

In a world of suffering and loss, the yearning to escape from ceaseless cycles of destruction and creation into an eternal stasis is an understandable conceit. The tragedy is that inherent in any framework that sees existence as broken is the root of suffering itself. To view the world as flawed is to nurture a wound spread with each attempt to fix what requires no repair.

Tellingly, in both Christianity and Islamic mythology the arrival of the Messianic Age is preceded by a final orgy of destruction, in which the forces of destruction themselves are violently purged from the ranks of the worthy. The idea’s secular manifestation often follows similar reasoning, with endless philosophies based on utopian visions of finality also pointing with equal abandon to the fires of genocide, warfare, and bondage. Such results should hardly be surprising: hatred begets hatred.

The oldest example of the messianic idea however is found in Judaism. Interestingly, in Judaism, a parallel concept can also be found in the principle of Tikkun olam, which holds that although the world is broken, through personal action it may be repaired and ultimately perfected. Like other examples, Tikkun olam, in its turn, has been interpreted primarily as a call to external action. A divergent interpretation however can see in it an internal manifest. A personal necessity to repair a shattered world which can be directly realized through the repair of a personal fissure.

Seen in this light, the only part of the world that is damaged is that part of ourselves that, in the refractions of our own perceptions, sees deformity instead of perfection. The true messiah is the understanding which discards the obscuring veil from what is already present in the waters of the eternal now. This is not an escape from action, but rather a call to it; for it also implies that the only act which is worthwhile is the one performed for its own sake. It necessitates that the transformations we desire be enacted now; for indeed, when else is there?