“The creator is not at all the same as he is depicted on canvases.” The enigmatic journey of Wolf Messing, from losing faith in God to rediscovering belief

“I will be gone in 54 years, five months, and eighteen days. It will occur at eleven o’clock in the evening. Can you imagine, Professor, how you would feel if you suddenly discovered the same about yourself? I was shocked. A wild fear seized me, but it was quickly replaced by the thought: ‘Why should I be afraid if death is not the end, but rather the beginning?’” Wolf Messing wrote this in a letter to the psychiatrist Professor Franz Abel, who was the first to call Messing a clairvoyant.

In his rare letters and diary entries, Wolf Messing reflected on the infinity of human existence, the belief in God, and the motivations that cause one to lose faith, only to regain it later.

“I did all this saying, ‘If there is no God, then now everything is possible.’

Wolf Messing remembered his parents as deeply religious. His father perceived God as strict yet truthful, exacting yet just.

“Being raised devoutly, I was nine when the rabbi suggested I attend a school for spiritual leaders. My parents welcomed the idea, but I did not. I rejected it outright. They debated with me, yet eventually, the disputes faded. It was during this period that I experienced what I long considered a miracle,” recalled Wolf Messing.

Late in the evening, Messing’s father sent him to the store. Upon his return in the darkness, he encountered a large white figure on his house’s porch.

Mistaking it for a messenger, young Messing listened as the figure spoke in a booming voice:

“I have been sent to you from above to tell you that your life should be dedicated to service. God is waiting for your prayers.”

Wolf Messing was so overwhelmed by what he witnessed that he fainted on the spot. As the boy regained consciousness, he found his parents gazing down at him with concern. He shared with them all that he had seen. Following his account, his father spoke in a stern tone:

“So you’re going to be a rabbi?”

Wolf Messing was compelled to obey. Subsequently, during his studies, he encountered the same “messenger of heaven” on earth, who was revealed to be a mere mortal. It was Messing’s father who had compensated the man to assume the role of the messenger.

“So my father has deceived me,” Wolf Messing pondered. “If the person closest to me is capable of such deceit, then in whom can I place my trust? It seems all that I have been taught is a sham. Thus, there cannot be a God. How could he permit such things if he were truly just and fair? Indeed, he does not exist.”

Wolf Messing resolved to escape from his school and his parents. Yet, the young man found his pockets as empty as his stomach. He planned to address his penury by shattering a mug into which the faithful cast their offerings. Alas, the collected sum was meager.

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“I did all this believing that ‘If there is no God, then everything is permissible.’ I then proceeded to the train station. Along the way, I came across a field and dug up some potatoes. I made a fire and roasted the potatoes in the embers. After eating, I arrived at the station and boarded the first train to Berlin,” Messing recounted.

As the young man lacked the funds for a ticket, he entered the carriage and hid beneath a bench. As the train began to move, the door of the carriage suddenly opened, and what Wolf Messing had dreaded most occurred.

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“I Just Know He Is”

In Berlin, Wolf Messing encountered psychiatrist Franz Abel, who first identified him as clairvoyant. Abel persistently urged Messing to hone his abilities rather than neglect them.

Messing remembered that he would frequent the bazaar daily, attempting to read the minds of the vendors, astonishing them with his talent. Sigmund Freud, acquainted with Messing, mentioned in a letter, “Messing is convinced his gift is divine, referring to it as God’s grace.”

It was in Berlin that Messing reaffirmed his belief in a Creator, though his perception had significantly altered. He conveyed this revelation to Abel in a 1920 letter, penned on the morning he foresaw the date of his own demise.

“I awoke before dawn that morning, heart racing. The initial terror of my vision was soon overtaken by elation. Naturally, I was pleased to know I had another fifty-four years ahead. Perhaps there’s more beyond that. You inquired about my faith in God. Frankly, I reject the pitiful depictions of the Creator offered by religions,” Messing wrote to Professor Abel.

In the same correspondence, Messing expressed, “I am certain of His existence. Yet, He bears no resemblance to the portrayals in art. It’s beyond our grasp and imagination, much like viewing the entire earth at once.”

As he matured, Wolf Messing’s perspective on his abilities shifted. He came to view his gift not as a blessing, but as a curse, a burdensome affliction.

Messing’s assistant, revealed that Messing chose not to have children, fearing the hereditary transmission of his gift. He wished to spare his offspring from such a fate.

In a letter, Messing mentioned having fifty-four years remaining. However, he felt that time passed too swiftly. On his final day, he conveyed to his assistant the heavy sorrow of knowing his death was near. Within that correspondence, he also affirmed his belief in reuniting with his late wife and the continuation of his existence beyond death.

“I’ll be gone today. I know this for a fact. It’ll be over in four hours. I want to run away from it, I want to believe that I will be saved. But I have my sad knowledge that I’m used to. Do not believe anyone who says that he is tired of earthly life. She can’t get bored. But I’ll be gone soon. Farewell, W., and hello, Aida,” Wolf Messing concluded his last letter.


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