Expanding on an earlier article, I want to look into the idea of theomorphism and the link to cultist terrorist organisations, what I call “theomorphic terrorism.”
There are numerous sources regarding theomorphism as the term is often used in Christian theology and debate regarding heresy and Jesus being the son of God. In other words, how someone – a living, breathing and pain-feeling human – who claims they are divine are in fact divine. But where I see this term most relevant is in that of cultist terrorist organisations ran by people who see themselves as divine who advocate political and ideological-based violence. So what is theomorphism?
Theomorphism is the “representation or conception of something or someone in the form of deity: the condition of being formed in the image of God.” Theomorphism is related to the concept of divinity and godhood: “the state of things that are believed to come from a supernatural power or deity, such as a god, supreme being, creator deity, or spirits, and are therefore regarded as sacred and Holy.” Now how do these concepts relate to cultist terrorist organisations?
Take for example Aum Shinirikyo. A cultist terrorist organisation based in Japan with connections to Australia and Russia. Lead by Shoko Asahara, a man who saw himself as divine (read: theomorphic personality). He founded and lead this monastic order based on multiple collections of holy texts and his own ‘relevatory’ spin. Alone the cult could continue unrecognized but Asahara went beyond.
Asahara claimed to be Christ, a Christ that could transfer spiritual power to his followers. Whackjob? Totally. But not uncommon in the history of the world of whackjobs. Many ‘self-enlightened’ so-called ‘Prophets’ believe themselves to be divine. The state of godhood, in that they believe they are supernaturally guided, is an observation in this class of whacko. He went from Prophet to the Christian Prophet Jesus. From someone with little relevance to the status of that of which billions of people believe in.
He took this one step even further than that though, when he began to preach that a nuclear Armageddon would bring about “human relief” cleansing the Earth. Aw, how kind of him. He actually believed that detonating a nuclear device was beneficial to humanity. It would bring about a new world, a new world order – and defeat the West, the Jews and whoever else Asahara felt like targeting in his conspiracy rants. Thereby Aum Shinirikyo became a “Doomsday Cult.” This is where the religion turned terroristic.
The cult-come-underground-religion soon became public knowledge when the Sarin attacks on Tokyo occurred as a result from its religious teachings and members dedication. After this event, the 2009 White Paper referred to the organisation as a “dangerous religion.” Accurate? I do believe so. The cult followed a few phases from theomorphic charismatic leader to group organisation to funding and arming to mobilization all in the matter of a ten short years.
The trends of theomorphic terrorism are clear:
- Asahara believed himself to be divine, guided by God, if not Jesus himself.
- Further, Asahara claimed to have transferable supernatural powers.
- Asahara used this position to preach political violence for a greater purpose.
- Further, Asahara claimed that nuclear warfare would cleanse the Earth.
- Asahara turned this religious cult into an organised religious terrorist organisation.
Other examples include the WACO Siege whereby David Koresh saw himself as Jesus and ISIS whereby al-Baghdadi saw himself as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Caliph who would bring the Madhi to Earth. This apocalyptic trend is one of the core components to theomorphic terrorism and the religious terrorism triad. The violence preached tends to come from a position whereby the actor convinces his followers that the end of the world is near, is better for them and any violence in this time (present) is for the greater good of that (future) time.
Terrorist theomorphists are, as Christopher Hitchens refers to it, “messianic fanatics.” They see themselves as divine. They want destruction. They want bloodshed. And they preach so based on their religious belief-system, however atypical or misleading that interpretation may be. They are a threat to any nation in which they operate.