Sunday, November 21, 2004

Failed Messiahs

Someday I'd like to try my hand at fiction, and these are the kinds of raw materials I need:

This was a dream; some dreams deserve to be shared.

A while back, sometime around the 17th century, someone tried to force the Messiah to come. This is a theme that runs through some Chassidic and Kabbalistic folklore: the wonder-working rabbi who attempts to force Heaven into action through acts of intense faith and perseverence. Fasting and meditation are usually involved, and the attempt -- to bind Satan or end Death or bring the Messiah -- always fails through a momentary lapse of humility, concentration, faith.

The attempt to bring the Messiah failed; we don't know why. But the attempt did force a great number of slightly lesser souls to manifest themselves before their appointed ages. The problem is that, without adequate preparation, those souls have not had uniformly good effects: Great souls in unprepared vessels at the wrong moments can do immense harm as well as immense good.

There was a litany of names: you'd recognize most of them, as I did, but it's hard to remember them now. Marx and Stalin and Hitler and Roosevelt and Mandela were in the list, as were a number of scholars (Hegel, Kierkegaard, I think, Bertrand Russell) and writers (G.B. Shaw and Bradbury, I think) and other activists and political leaders whose names escaped me upon waking.

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