Understanding November 1988
PROPHETS, PROFITS & PROPHECY
Throughout the entire history of the human race, both historical and legendary, there have been constant and widely circulated reports of individuals who were credited with the ability to foresee, and so to predict certain future events. Shaman, Seers, Wizards, Psychics and Clairvoyants all have seen the future, and have talked about it to all who would listen. Sometimes the predicted events do actually occur, more often they do not, those which do are always hailed as proof positive of the individual’s ability to see the future.
A certain amount of controversy has always surrounded such individuals, some people accepting their abilities entirely, some only partly, and others not at all. However, the consensus of public opinion has always supported the idea that there is, in fact, some validity in the art of prognostication. How much validity has always been a more difficult and persistent question. Many persons are of the opinion that, however well a prophet may be known, and however much success he, or she, may have had in the past, if they should make a specific prophecy of a specific event at a specific time, and that event does not occur, the prophet is proven to be a complete fake, and if he, or she, has received any money for his advice, they are considered to be a fraud as well. Others feel that prophets, like doctors and lawyers, can only promise ‘best efforts’ but cannot be expected to guarantee results.
The professional prophet, that is, one who make his, or her, living primarily by their predictions of things to come, usually make many dire predictions of holocaust and cataclysm on the theory that, if even one should actually occur, they will be famous for life, and if none occur, the public will be so relieved that none will want to blame the prophet. There are, however, and always have been, true prophets, whether, or not all of their predictions materialized.
True prophecy is the ability to foresee the inevitable result of certain conditions, but no one can be sure that the conditions will not change between the time of the prophecy is made and the time of its fulfillment. For example — Suppose that a certain individual is taking a trip across the country by train. He has invented a new type of telescope which will permit him to see for many miles down the track on which the train is travelling. Just before dusk he is using the telescope to see the nature of the country which the train will be travelling that night. To, his horror he sees that a flash flood has washed out a section of a trestle over which his train is due to pass at midnight. It is in a remote area and no one else is aware of the situation. The traveler calls the conductor and tells him of his new telescope and of the damaged trestle. The conductor, who knows that such a telescope would be impossible, laughs at the traveler, and goes about his business. The traveler, who knows that the telescope is valid, walks through the train advising all of the passengers to leave the train at the next stop because it is due to be wrecked at midnight. Most of the passengers merely smile and ignore him, but a few do get off at the next stop. The conductor, seeing that passengers are leaving the train because of the prophecy, and, fearing that more may leave if nothing is done to disprove it, wires ahead for an emergency inspection of the trestle in question. The inspection discloses that the trestle is destroyed, and the train is quietly and immediately rerouted on another track. Midnight comes and goes but the predicted crash does not occur. In the morning, the passengers arrive safely at their destination, all firmly convinced that the prophecy was a lot of nonsense. Those who left the train prophecy, are furious at the traveler for causing them unnecessary delay by his foolish prediction, and they berate him unmercifully as a false prophet.
The traveler, although he is discredited and despised, is still the happiest member of the group because he knows that it was his warning that saved the lives of all on board, both those who left the train and those who remained!
Such is prophecy. It is not an occupation to be followed for fame and fortune, nor yet for respect and reverence. Though the Prophets may be many, the profits will be few!