I. The credo: The false messiah claims to produce access to the Ultimate, the very grandest objectives of life, and make it happen here and now. It will materialize if you follow the messiah unquestioningly. Whatever he demands is holy writ. He, personally, is totally unique.
II. The impact: Once the idea that the messiah brings access to the Ultimate is embraced, it impassions people to follow his directives with utmost fervor, no matter how extreme, how malicious are the directives.
III. Hitler is the messiah! He was regarded by most of his followers as a man of superhuman attributes, a man who would catapult Germany to its greatest destiny through his leadership. That leadership would restore, revitalize, and activate Germany’s dormant energy. It would bring forth Germany’s rightful glory, before which the world would stand in awe. On the individual German citizen, Hitler would bestow a sense of personal fulfillment and pride never before experienced. He would bring many fond wishes to fruition. He embodied and personified their innermost yearnings. In effect, he was, to many, a messiah (although they did not use that term).
IV. The nature of “messiah” (false ones and true ones):
A sociologist’s view:
— The messiah is a person who, through his or her own life, is believed to bring and personify a profound moral message.
— The messiah’s message is directed to the individual person, the citizen, the member of the community, the ordinary human being.
— He does so in a very personal way, offering one a personal access to moral salvation, personal access to sublime and ultimate moral grace.
— The individual, in response to the message of the messiah, is expected to act in one’s own life in a manner that connects one to the messiah’s demonstrated vision of the state of ultimate grace.
— Through one’s actions one thereby helps to actualize the messiah’s wondrous vision. The individual is not passive. Instead, one actively contributes, through one’s own behavior, to transforming the messiah’s vision into concrete reality.
V. False messiahs are difficult to expose because followers are actively and personally involved in the messianic process. They derive a sense of personal empowerment from the messiah’s message, mostly because they became heavily engaged in carrying out that messianic message.
VI. My book about Social Space develops this more fully, including the difference between Christian and Jewish perspectives to the messiah phenomenon.
— I claim that they are not far apart. (See, “Our quest for effective living: How we cope in Social Space / A window to a new science.”)