This hippy gentleman is ex-traffic cop, Sergei Torop. He’s built a self-sustaining vegetarian community in Petropavlovka, a hamlet within the Siberian tundra. In 1989, after losing his job, Sergei started campaigning that he was Christ returned and changed his name to Vissarion. At last count, anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 of his most devout have followed him out there, turning their backs on the carnal world and saying yes to wisdom and enlightenment.
Along with innocuous maxims like, “The quality of a person does not depend on achievements in technology and science…regardless of social standing, inside the human soul you stay a creature” are less sagacious prophesies of doomsday flooding, the prohibition of shampoo, and edicts that wives be less selfish and husbands be more loving i.e. polygamy yes! Unsurprisingly, Sergei’s own first marriage did not survive when he married a 19-year-old girl who had posed nude for some of his paintings. He’d apparently known her since she was a child.
There’s another bloke over in Kingaroy, Queensland, with shorter locks but no less kindly a face. Alan John Miller aka AJ Miller aka Jesus reincarnated, says everyone can benefit from a direct, loving relationship, with God. To get there, he teaches ‘Emotional Clearing’ as you embark on the ‘Divine Love Path’. He’s convinced his current partner she’s Mary Magdalene, the biblical consort/companion of Christ, though it’s worth nothing she isn’t the first he’s bestowed with the title.
Again, everything seems benign enough until inevitably, we get to the chapter on prophetic visions. And AJ has some pretty florid tales. He believes tectonic movements will trigger catastrophic tsunamis, burying Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, but transforming his own rural compound into a sub-tropical paradise.
And the list of charlatan eschatologists goes on and on. There’s Jesus Matayoshi, who’s on a sacred mission to become Japan’s next PM, and God’s final judge before the apocalypse. But not before this former Protestant-trained pastor spreads his reforms worldwide after the United Nations offers him the honour of being its General Secretary.
Or Wayne Bent, a New Mexico Messiah who was arrested for lying naked with two teenage girls from his congregation, who still profess they’ve interpreted Hebrews 4:13 correctly: “… everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. He also claims God forced him to consummate with his son’s wife, a task he spent several painful hours rebuffing before giving in to the mysterious ways of the Lord.
Wikipedia even has a list of Jesus claimants, including Malaysia’s very own Ariffin Mohamed. Better remembered as Ayah Pin, founder of Kerajaan Langit or Sky Kingdom, and venerated as the reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha, Shiva and Muhammad combined.
While religious cults are a dime a dozen, it is interestingly to note they feed on the same power that gives life to mainstream beliefs i.e. the potency of faith. The leap of faith that requires you to believe the Earth and the ensuing cosmos was created in 6 days, is the same hurdle one might jump in believing bamboo binoculars and waving coconuts around will solve the mystery of MH370. There is no evidence to support either claim, and in fact science alludes to the contrary, but still religious people stake entire reputations on their unwavering faith in their darling deities.
If it’s accurate, even honorable, to believe you can have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe as some claim, why is it psychopathy that djinns might be reared in bottles and satiated with crow’s blood? It doesn’t appeal to the ego in quite the same way, but employing faith over rationality gets you there.