Prophecy

It started the other night when I was walking home with Cake Worm.  We started talking about how witches always seem to be portrayed as wizened old hags and never as beautiful women.  Inevitably we ended up talking about MacBeth and the witches prophecy:

First Witch 
All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch 
All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch 
All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

Also the comment from Deb

Mr. Frog…I hope u’ll hop over and give me your explanation on how things that were written thousands of years ago have come to pass, are coming to pass and will come to pass…I’m sure there is a logical explanation

got me thinking about the nature of prophecy.  Actually it goes back to Greta’s post on predictions from earlier in the year. 

Is it that they that come true because we make them come true or because they would come true anyway?

Now, before anyone leaps up and yells “Hey Mr Frog.  You don’t believe in the supernatural.  How can you believe in prophecy?” let me explain.   A prophecy that does not come true isn’t a prophecy.  It just doesn’t count,  That’s why so called psychics throw scores of predictions out and then grandly announce the fact when they get one right.  It is prophecy because it becomes true, before that it is simply a statement.

I have some tips for people who wish to write their own prophecies.  As a gamer since I before I was a teenager (and that was a while ago) I have enjoyed writing and being subjected to prophecy in a game (or The Game as we often call it) environment. 

Multiple meanings: Come up with three meanings for every element in a prophecy, so that if one thing is prevented, the others can step in.  Daniel 9 26 “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”  Suitably vague.  Sixty two ‘sevens’ could mean weeks or loaves of bread or anything else that you get lots of.  The Anointed One could be the Jesus figure, a holy pilgrim or someone who got rained on.  It doesn’t matter as long as you leave the answer open to interpretation.

The Wizard’s Bluff: Find ways to make avoiding a problem, cause the problem.  An unfair technique but useful if you need something to happen or to explain something that can’t go another way.  For instance, say you need to prophecy one person being in Ankh Morpork but they refuse to go there.  In avoiding the problem they try to escape and end up getting lost and going to the very place that they wanted to avoid.  A simpler method is a lever that either opens a trap door or prevents it opening.  If you need someone to fall through the trap door then it doesn’t matter if you pull the lever or not because it’s going to happen the way it has been foretold.  This is very much a “heads I win, tails you lose” gambit.

What’s your name?: Don’t give names but use vague references instead.  When you want Bill the plasterer to be your focus of the prophecy never use his name.  Use “the third son with hands of clay”or “the dark eyed laughing one”.  If you want to prophecy a death don’t say that “only a man who was born by Cesarean section can kill you”.  Turn it round to the positive and mysterious.  Say instead “None of woman born shall harm MacBeth”.  It’s suitably vague and leaves unsaid the key point.

When was that again?:  Don’t give dates of events at all if you can help it or use an odd method of calculating dates like an ancient language or a vague unit like age or season.  For example say “In the season of darkness” when you mean winter.  You can always reveal later that this meant a time of lunar eclipse or night time or even a very overcast day.  Avoid specifics.  Daniel 9 26s sixty-two ‘sevens’ is another example.

Where was I?:  Don’t use place names.  Use a description instead.  Instead of saying Rome, for example, say The City of Seven Hills.  That way you can use another city that happens to have seven hills (or mounds, or piles of rubbish even) if your first choice lets you down.

Retroactive Prophecy:  One of my favourites.  Have a figure of importance make some off hand comment that is open to interpretation.  Write it down.  Later some event could occur and people will point at that comment and say “Wow, that was spot on.  Amazing!”.  My example is another biblical one Matthew 24 1-2 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.  “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

The key to prophecy is to be vague and to get others to look for meaning.  Never be explicit, never clarify.  When you get close to the mark make sure that you shout out that you got it right.  Only then should you explain that you meant this or that all along.  If anyone doubts you then all you need to do is accuse them of lacking faith and demand that they explain how you could be so accurate with your prophecy.

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5 Comments

Filed under Pedantic, Religion, You decide

5 responses to “Prophecy

  1. mylozmom

    now that’s a thinker! And very well written my dear! I actually think I’m starting to see the method to your madness!

  2. Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Bible: A Biography’ is pretty good on the idea of prophercy, showing that it was essentially a backwards process – first you took the event you wanted support for, then you searched the Bible for any comment that could be seen as refering to said event.

    The prophercies supposedly refering to Jesus Christ, for example, had to be explained to people by the early Christians (when they were trying to gather support). No-one heard of Jesus and then thought “Ah, so he’s the one X was talking about in…”. Nor were the early Christians alone, as there is a long tradition (encompassing great Christian thinkers such as Augustine) who believed that the Bible had to be read through the lens of the present, rather than taken literally.

  3. Jason

    wow. You just described evolutionary “science”.

  4. mylozmom, there’s madness in my method too.

    Matt, I can see that I’ll need to start a list of books I need to read. I have read some St Augustine but I don’t remember anything about prophecy. I know: keep reading.

    Jason, what an interesting idea. Would you care to elaborate? I thing I see what you mean.

  5. Another Classic(al) example of ‘vague’ prophecy. Croesus asking the Delphic Oracle if he should invade Persia. The answer that if he did “He would destroy a mighty empire.” was assumed by Croesus to mean that he’d win. He didn’t and his mighty empire was destroyed.

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