Rogue Messiahs: Tales of Self-Proclaimed Saviors by Colin Wilson (Hampton Roads, 2000)

Colin Wilson may be a flawed thinker, deserving neither the reverence nor the revulsion he inspired in turn, but he is very good at introducing the reader to new authors and ideas. This book showed me some common aspects of messianic movements that I might have otherwise missed:

  • Many would-be messiahs figures preach that the end of the world is close at hand. During the end of the world, only the figure and his followers will be saved.
  • Messianic cult leaders often use their ministry to gain sexual access to many willing participants. Wilson discusses some of these men’s exploits in graphic detail, which is both disturbing and darkly hilarious.
  • As messianic movements grow in power and influence, their leaders become more paranoid and grandiose. Prophecies of the end-times often grow more dramatic. The results are often tragic: Waco, the Tate-LaBianca murders, Jonestown, etc.

There’s a lot of bad behavior, and abuse of power, detailed in this book. If the recent Hollywood sex abuse scandals have turned your stomach, I’d give this book a miss. However, if you want to get some insight into messianic cults throughout history, this book is a good starting point, if you take Wilson’s intellectual deficits into account.

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A.O. Monk

A.O. Monk lives in the USA, drinks lots of water, and writes stories about imaginary people, places, and events.

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