As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a messiah.
You might also have a messiah problem. So I’m making an intervention.
Yesterday it was elitism, today it’s a messiah complex. Well, that escalated quickly.
In reluctant elitism I said I’m done with the whole “reach the masses, save the world thing.” But where did that idea come from in the first place? And why do so many artists/thinkers/healers/entrepreneurs feel like they need to “save the world?”
Accusing other people of having a messiah complex is obviously derogatory, but it’s usually meant in a metaphorical way. We just did this on the Bio-Individual podcast when we said Wilhelm Reich might have had a little bit of a messiah complex which led him astray.
So to be clear, when I talk about my own little messiah complex, I mean it quite literally: I really thought it was me. As in, hey guys I’m back, sorry for the delay. When still ridiculously young, I even carried around a little bible with me for a while, much to the amusement of my non-religious parents.
Spoiler alert: I’m not the messiah. So I won’t be making an announcement to the world live on.. er.. Substack.. The literal belief in my messiahhood didn’t last last very long, obviously, and I eventually downgraded my goal to Astronaut (a bit closer to earth at least.)
You know the movie Superman 2 (1980), the scene where he has lost his power and gets beaten up in the diner, under neon green kryptonitesque lighting, lying in broken glass shocked at the sight of his own blood? That scene still haunts me and I’ve just realised why.
I kept my embarrassing little secret for years, cringing and rolling my eyes whenever I remembered my previous position and subsequent demotion. But it turns out wanting to be a messiahnaut when you grow up is more common than I realised at the time - a few of you weirdos also thought you were the messiah and not just a very messiahnaughty boy. Anyway, I bet I’ll get at least one new confession after writing this. Join us. Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m a messiah.
So how does this messiah idea enter the head of a tiny boy in a tiny village in a tiny country. I’ve read early psychoanalysts talking about infant megalomania, and I guess it’s just an outgrowth of that phase. Maybe you just attach that inner feeling-intuition (ok ok… delusion) to whatever outer symbols happen to be “kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown.”
For me this was good old Scottish Calvinist Presbyterianism and my child brain came to the conclusion that if He was coming back then somebody had to be Him, and therefore it might as well be Me… and besides, you probably don’t get to find out you’re Him until you’re older anyway, so I’ll just keep an eye out for signs for now.
My developing prefrontal cortex had a good laugh at the concept, but the feeling kept being reignited by a certain event, which still happens to me, albeit with a less glamorous interpretation.
Whenever someone else was talking and I noticed a logical error or flaw in their reasoning – or if in my own thinking i noticed a flaw or error (not that I knew these terms yet) – there would be an sudden ‘aha moment’ and ‘flash’ of insight. Like I could see through reality at that moment.
Which always felt like it happened TO me instead of me doing it, coming from out there, maybe even up there – along with a rush of excited energy, and the feeling of expanding, of bursting out of some restricted version of me, and out into something bigger, wider, more infinite.
Obviously I didn’t understand at the time but I was experiencing the joy of self-transcendence, of self-overcoming, always in intense small shots (mystical espresso?), but without a fully grown brain, or much knowledge of life, or any training in thinking, I just jumped to whatever conclusion made the most sense of this early “peak experience.”
When I say my messiah complex is gone, it is gone, but it’s not gone without a trace. Once a messiah always a messiah. While my false messiah-hood was obvious in the upper regions of the brain, a remnant of the feeling always remained, deep down in the middle and lower brains, and only came up out into the light in weird ways at different stages of my life. Sometimes a flower blossomed from it, but mostly it was just weeds, taking space and getting tangled up with every new project, purpose or career change.
This brings me back to where this idea of “reach the masses, save the world” came from in the first place. The messiah complex wasn’t dead, it was keeping itself alive disguised as saving the world, and so whatever this thing I’m doing is, it must appeal to the masses because I am here to save the whole world! Infant megalomania. Adult cosmolomania. And so the whole self-drama continues in a more subtle form, harder to see and overcome.
I doubt I’m the only one with this embarrassing little secret. And it might explain why so many people who could be doing good work - in real and practically useful ways – are instead languishing and fantasying and pretending to change things they have no power over (usually by speaking their “Word” on the internet, of course!)
You might also have a messiah problem. So I’m making an intervention. You don’t need to save the world. Why don’t we just master our craft, reach a few people – the right people – and do a little good along the way?
LOL. This hits too close to home.