The Archetype of the Messiah

The messiah is obviously a very powerful concept in some religions. If not expressed under the word messiah, it can be also seen in images such as that of a saviour, or an avatar. But the archetype of the messiah has to do with a new revelation, or a new epoch, perhaps a way or path maker.

The concept and the experience of the messiah archetype, possibly arises from a deep stratum of the human psyche that holds racial memories of confrontation with times of crisis, times when human development had reached a point that needed a new impulse, a new way of responding to the world to continue. In other words the way forward in human, social or individual development had reached a point of impasse. A new paradigm, a new, and perhaps previously unseen direction, a new example, a new birth of human potential was needed. My best guess is that within the human unconscious, a vision or sense of what was needed had formed and was felt. The ‘new being’ that needed to emerge was intuited as a great leader, a great spiritual being who would incarnate and lead the race forward. Of course, the ‘new being’ was or is a potential within the person themselves. But individuals who expressed this new being would be looked upon as the very incarnation of the messiah, and act as a catalyst for others to allow the new qualities or social order to emerge from within themselves.

Example: I felt myself to be a primitive tribal male, almost primitive enough to be dressed in animal skins. The rule or lore my people and I lived by was one deeply rooted in tribal history and custom. Our identity, our sense of self, was woven out of these two things. But there was another factor that we understood in our own way that we called ‘blood’. Throughout time, changes crept into the ‘blood’ that produced varieties of illnesses and what I saw as ‘errors’. In dealing with the physical result of such errors, there wasn’t much one could do, as the changes had already been set in motion. But suddenly I encountered a force – or what I saw as an immense being – which transcended the effects of errors. This being I felt was a god or God, but looking back it wasn’t an all encompassing being, so was more like a god, or an aspect of God. My visual impression of it though, was of something so huge yet visible, that I was at first terrified, and so were my ‘people’. If one can imagine an immense skyscraper rising into the clouds and beyond, yet not a building but a living being, this is my view of it. This being I knew as the All Shaper. It was the power that gave form or shape to everything. As such it could influence the shape one had become through the errors of history or the deeds of ones family or oneself. The pristine shape or matrix which guides the cells to form organs could be restored.

There was a problem however. This being was terrifying and beyond the gods of my people. To stand before it or acknowledge it was akin to transgressing all the lore of the tribe, all its customs. I came to see this as a transcending of all that one was aware of as a person. Ones perception of the world arises out of the information absorbed from ones ‘tribe’ about the world, and what one has added to that oneself through thought and observation. This perception appears to oneself to be encompassing. But if a vaster experience arises then suddenly ones perception or world view, ones paradigm, appears very small. This is what happened in confronting the All Shaper. It transcended our paradigm. This was why it was terrifying, and perhaps why I felt like a primitive human being. So not only was the All Shaper something more than we had known before and so threatening to our – and my – world view, but also to take it as ones god was to break with all the tribal traditions and to stand apart and different to ones whole tribe.

This is what I did, with some fear and trembling. I felt instinctively that one should first offer ones genitals to it. This was because the seed one carried might have inherited errors in them, and that this was ones most precious possession. To offer this to the All Shaper, and have such a sacrifice accepted and blessed, would mean ones seed would be made pristine, and all that had issued from ones genitals would be blessed with the power of the All Shaper. Inherited or personal error would be wiped out or cleansed.

From what I felt at the time, the fear about the All Shaper arose because it was beyond the family, beyond the tribe, beyond any small area of life. I suppose part of the fear was that in becoming a believer in the All Shaper, one had become something outside of the family, almost as if one had gone berserk, or mad, or become an alien and perhaps dangerous. I felt that we all need to approach this power to be cleansed and renewed for our errors. We need the marriage with this new god. I was also made a seer – one who has insight into the condition of soul of those around them.

Part of the messiah archetype is to do with demonstrating courage to face death lightly, or to be sacrificed. In its very primitive form, the messiah or saviour would have been killed by his own tribe or people, and torn apart and eaten. The flesh would have given the magic power of fearlessness to those who ate this sacred meal. Therefore the torn body would have been like seeds of the new life, the new consciousness. The reason the messiah would be killed would be because they transgressed all the old taboos of the tribe in living the new path. Only by eating them could the tribe absorb this new way. We see this ritualised in Christianity where the body and blood of the saviour are consumed. See archetype  of Christ; archetype of the mentor; archetype of the self.

The messiah archetype is a pattern or potential we may meet or draw upon in times of great change, of great personal uncertainty or indecision, or perhaps when we meet a life situation or a social situation in which we feel there is no way ahead or back. A new way is needed, an almost magical change is called upon, and this is met in the figure of the messiah.

Its negative aspect lies in the possibility of personal identification with the archetype – I am the messiah, the new dispensation. It is not an uncommon trap. The person acclaims their own divinity in a manner suggesting they are different to their fellows and they have a divine message to share. The positive side of the archetype is that it enables the individual to draw out of themselves the new way, the new path, and to live it in some degree. As such it holds in it enormous energy to be active in a creative way.

Useful Questions and Hints:

Do I have a sense that I am different to other people and have a divine message to give?

Having met the messiah in my dream or visions, what is my relationship with this figure?

What emerges in me from my contact with this archetype?

Am I confronted by apparent impasse, and if so what is the new way that is emerging?

See I don’t believe in God, I know.

See also: Archetype of Christ; Meetings With Christ.


-Joseph 2012-07-06 22:24:12

Greetings tony, ive been reading this part of your website that talks about archetypes and find it really interesting. Lately i re-read a science fiction novel called “dune” i would really recommend you to read, but the point here is what would the archetype of a blind messiah mean… i have been intrigued by this question since i saw the 3rd matrix movie and read dune. Forgive me if my english is not correct, its not my native tongue. I would really happy if you could email me something about it.

My best regards, keep up the good work.

    -Tony Crisp 2012-07-08 10:21:54

    Joseph – I read Dune – the whole series – about 40 years ago and was very impressed with it.

    I have not thought about a blind messiah, but I think it would be about losing sight of the material world and living in the inner world more fully. I was in hospital with my eyes bandaged for six weeks and told not to move because of an eye injury; a fascinating experience. Try closing your eyes and take note of what happens, and then open your eyes and really note the difference.


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