Yes there are tremendous things I feel happening, amazing shifts to spirituality. But how do I know these things aren't always happening?
When I say I feel something happening, it might make other people more sensitive to the fact that something is happening. Which means it might cascade. It doesn't take much to create a situation where the cascade is so amplified by feedback it creates a tremendous urgency.
Nowadays, if you get on a crowded plane and start acting nervous and telling people you have a really bad feeling that something will happen, the more serious you get the more everyone will go nuts with panic -- there might be no real danger at all, but you will sensitize others to feelings of danger that always accompany flying and they will feel them and think they are stronger.
The trick is with spiritual developments and progress, being a subjective person, it's very hard to tell the difference between things happening to you and things happening to the world. (At least I know I can't tell the difference.)
Rebbe Nachman teaches that our own interpersonal relationships mirror what is happening on a macroscopic scale, yet I would stress that we need to really develop the eyes to understand and internalize those ideas. On the other hand, the Baal Shem Tov's Torah may seem a little solipsistic. The BeSh"T says that everything you experience is part of HaShem's communication with you. It's not hard to combine the two lessons and realize that they're closely related, but still, it means that its hard to extrapolate from our own experience about where the world is holding, as the Talmud teaches "the whole world was created just for you."
When you're young does it mean the world is young? When you grow old does it mean the world is growing old? No. But, there are parallels you can draw. As we saw yesterday, macrocosmic stages also play out on the microcosm. When you grow old, there is an aspect of the world growing old: your generation is aging too, which means the ideas, merits, strengths and weaknesses of your generation are on the wane as a whole. Still, in the world there is a vivifying force of new ideas, merits, strengths and weaknesses in the waxing of another generation. Just as the progress of each day plays out in miniature some form or element of the progress of the year.
What I'm getting at is this: Everyone knows that the world develops in a cyclical fashion. Yet, at the same time, everyone, unless they really stop to think about it, believes that spiritual growth is linear on the whole. We even have a principle that says as much, "We ascend in holiness but do not descend." This can be said to accurately describe historic progress. (something I once wrote about.) However, this is talking about net ascension.
In Judaism we have another principle involved in growth and progress: Ratz, running, and Shav, returning. In a very simple sense ratz can be seen as rising and shav as falling. On the whole we're always making progress but to do so we run for a while and then sit/return and rest. It's the tortoise model of progress. It's really the only true way progress happens in the world. A child grows physically, then growth slows and they learn how to use their new bodies, and then they grow again and so on.
Everything works that way. In cycles. We grow and develop in cycles. Cycles of days, of weeks of months, years and larger landmarks from bar mitzwah to wedding to parenthood to parents of bar mitzwahs, to parents of the bride or groom, to grandparents and so on.
Spirituality too. Yes there is something in the air. Something really deep and spiritual. But it doesn't mean this is the time around when everything we've been waiting so long for has got to happen.
I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, I'm trying to teach us to work deeper. Think about it, there are even more amazing implications. In the classic view of what's gone down so far in history, there's been many false messiahs, false hysteria about the coming of messiahs and so on.
In our "new" view, each wave of that expectance, that new enlightenment, was a period of ratz, historically. It's not that it was 'so close' but didn't happen. It was that it was always getting closer, and we needed to reach that stage to grow to the next stage.
Again we are clearly at a momentous point of running spiritually. Whether this is the last or there will still be more is a great question, what a question! But it's beyond the point. The point is that we teach that the true masters of Ratz and Shav know that the secret of Shav is that it's a form of running too, just a different kind.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that when we step inside, reach a deeper spiritual level, we find we're back on the outside again; ah, but the outside of the next deeper spiritual level. Ratz and Shav is the same. We "return" to ourselves to seek out the next deeper spiritual level. [From this we can see how it is true that not only 'net' (as opposed to what we said earlier) but even when we speak in 'gross' terms, we are always rising in holiness.]
Whether this is the final lap or not is irrelevant to our work, to our immediate lives, we need to work like it's never going to be done. This is a novel way to understand "lo alecha haM'lachah l'gmor" -- Normally rendered, "you don't have to finish the work, [but you can't give it up entirely,]" On a deeper level it's "you shouldn't work in an attempt to finish it, [instead you should work as if you can keep the pace up forever.]" In other words don't sprint, jog. That's the way to get the farthest, always pace yourself for the long haul.
But it's deeper still.
The true masters of running and returning, they know when they crest one wave, not only can they see the farthest, but if they ride the wave down they can propel themselves to the next wave at amazing speed. [this is discussed outright in the Mishnah in a story about Rebbe Meir Baal HaNess and Rabi Akiva]
When we master the long haul, when we give up trying to worry about when we've reached the end, that's when we're really making the most progress spiritually. Because as long as we think there's an end, how can we relate to God? God's endless. Ein sof.
Want to see Moshiah in your days? Keep your eyes open when you crest the wave, but don't think for a second that you're about to reach shore or else you will exhaust yourself, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and you will give up too soon, maybe minutes too soon.
This is what it means that the Tzaddikim (both of today and those that have long since passed on) live in a perpetual revellation of Moshiah, they're surfing those waves and glimpse the goal every time they crest one.