Óscar Reyes-Matute
Philosophy, kabbalah, screenwriting...

COVID-19 and Jerusalem Syndrome

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Since March, with the onset of the pandemic, the appearance of prophets, millennialists and supposed messiahs has skyrocketed.

The Internet, of course, is the agora from which they shout their apocalyptic messages, calling on the perplexed and terrified inhabitants of planet Earth to follow them. Where? I don’t know, and they probably don’t either …

It is not something new, during the medieval plagues, maddened monks, wayward rabbis and wrathful qadi launched their invectives against sinners, threatening them with flames, torments, but also offering the hope that a new and luminous world was to come, the day after the divine wrath.

Tomas de Celano (1200 – c.1265 of the CE), wrote it in verses that were later used for immortal works such as Mozart’s Requiem:

Dies iræ, dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla,
Test David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
When Judex is venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

The day of wrath, that day
will dissolve the world in ashes,
David being witness along with the Sibyl

How great will be the quaking,
when the Judge is about to come,
strictly investigating all things.

It seems that there is an awakening of both fear and hope, of the messianic role of each one, the possibility of changing the world and of building a New Jerusalem.

It also happens to those who visit the holy city. Through some inexplicable energetic influx, they feel a spiritual call, they feel that the heavens are sending them a role, a mission, which will finally give meaning to their lives. They call it the Jerusalem syndrome.

Does all humanity feel it at this moment? Probably not.

A large majority? I doubt it.

A small percentage? Probably, maybe 1%. But 1% of 7 billion are 7 million human beings. More or less the population of Israel.

The visible symptoms are that they begin to speak of spirituality, of the need to connect with the cosmos, with the secret energies that move life, that we must take care of the planet, that we must be more generous with each other … This message has been repeated for many centuries by the prophets and messiahs of almost all organized religions.

Is 1% of Humanity infected with the messianic virus, with the Jerusalem syndrome?

It is something very interesting to investigate. Especially in relation to whether it can infect to a good part of the human race, this is, that this spritual virus influence us, that we suddenly “suffer” a kind of spiritual mutation in the short term, and, in consequence, we change the world.

It is of course one of the classic messianic proposals of Judaism. And not a few Kabbalah teachers nowadays are urging their students and followers to assume that messianic role, not even to change the world, they are talking about something more radical: they assume that the change is forced and inevitable due to the social, psychological, economic, and spiritual consequences of the virus, the pandemic and the shock or the long quarantines. Humans should prepare and start acting on what has been dubbed “the new normal.”

I do not know if the spiritual mutation is going to occur, if the Jerusalem syndrome has expanded at this scale, if it has established itself with enough force in that 1% to remain stable as soon as the restrictions and confinements cease.

As soon as shops, streets, and workplaces open, one sees that citizens trying to return to their previous habits. They even protest furiously against new ways of behave among us, such as the use of masks and social distancing.

But perhaps those people who run like crazy trying to restore their old normality are not part of what we have called here the 1%.

Is that 1% capable of generating a critical mass? Let’s say, so that in the future, its influence will make Humanity little by little less violent, more sensitive to mutual support and solidarity, to feel respect for the biosphere, to foster the spiritual connection with the cosmos and among all humans.

The experience of monkeys on an island in Japan is well known. They used to eat certain fruits that fell from the trees to the beach. It was difficult for them to eat the fruits, because those were covered in sand. One day, one of the monkeys took a fruit, washed it with sea water, and it became easier for him to eat it.

Little by little, the other monkeys began to imitate him. In short, all the monkeys on the island washed their fruits to eat them more easily.

Their descendants began to be born already learned with the art of washing the fruits. And what is more curious: in distant islands, where there was no possible contact with the monkeys of the first island, other monkeys, as if by magic, begin to wash their fruits, and even also their descendants.

Perhaps the minds of these monkeys – and also ours – are connected in a network, in the collective unconscious advocated by Jung, or as what we understand today on the Internet as the cloud.

Perhaps it would be enough that the 1% begin to act according to their own messianic findings, according to their Jerusalem syndrome, to see the world functioning differently in 20 or 30 years.

It has happened with the Internet, which began around the 90s, with small groups connecting from modem to modem, before the invention of the HTLM interface.

30 years later, the world is another movie, completely different.

Will we see the movie of the spiritual mutation resulting from the pandemic and its Jerusalem syndrome?

I don’t know, but the promise, the trailer for that film, focused on that new world, is better than any possible Netflix miniseries.

About the Author
Óscar Reyes-Matute (Matu / מאתו), lives in Caracas. He's a philosopher graduated at Andrés Bello Catholic University, with a Master in Political Science at USB. He has been Fulbright Visiting Scholar at NYU on American Studies, and professor of political philosophy at UCAB and UCV. He has published academic papers in universities of Venezuela and Europe, and articles in several newspapers. Since 2008, he is dedicated to study Kabbalah at the Bnei Baruch Institute in Petaj Tikva, while works as writer of cinema and television screenplays. He's liryc tenor. Be aware, after a glass of wine, he suddenly can start to sing "Nessun Dorma!"
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