FUTURE PROPHECY LAB
Principles: Vision, Oracle, Return
Author: Anna Longo
Post I – Introduction
What is a prophecy? What is the difference between a prophecy and a scientific prediction? What kind of knowledge of future is a prophetic vision? Is the art of prophecy lost today? Who are the modern prophets? Can we prophesize the return of the prophetic as a way of calling for a new way of thinking the future?
This lab is a journey back and forth in time to explore the ancient and modern art of prophesying. It tells the story of how prophecies have been travelling in time through the multiple events of their supposed fulfillment. It presents past and present prophets to prophesize about future prophetic figures and their role in society. It proposes a transdisciplinary journey showing how this overlooked art has been fundamental in shaping many cultural fields such as philosophy, literature, and even economics or science. It will help you to tell real and fake prophets apart and it will invite you to become the prophet that the future needs. This lab is my oracle, a dissemination of dots to be connected to reveal your mission in bringing about the future.
Image: "The Oracle of Delphi Entranced" by the German artist Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1905).
POST_002: THE PROPHETS I
In Century 9, Quatrain 95, Nostradamus is said to have predicted the rise of super-soldiers and the armies of tomorrow:
"The newly made one will lead the army, almost cut off up to near the bank: Help from the Milanais elite straining, the Duke deprived of his eyes in Milan in an iron cage.”
Nostradamus (1503 – 1566) is a French mystic who wrote a book of catastrophic prophecies some of which are supposed to have been fulfilled already while many others might be fulfilled in the future.
The poetic and ambiguous verses are open to the reader’s interpretation and can easily apply retrospectively to most of the disasters one can witness in her life. The power of prophecies is not in their truth, but in the capacity of making us experiencing any present as the revelation of destiny. Now is the future that was meant to be, the spectacle that has been prepared for so long.
POST_003: THE PROPHETS II
In Century 8, Quatrain 59, Nostradamus made references to a conflict between the West and the East that might be the Third World War
"Twice put up and twice cast down, the East will also weaken the West. Its adversary after several battles chased by sea will fail at time of need."
Contrary to scientific predictions, prophecies are produced according to special techniques that are meant to find in the present the seeds that grow as vague visions of the future in the medium’s mind.
Nostradamus probably practiced bibliomancy, the art of finding in old books the passages that can orient into the future. Contrary to scientific predictions that are rapidly obsolete, prophecies and books do not lose their value as time passes by.
During the trial reported in Plato’s Apology, Socrates refers to an oracle allegedly received by his friend Chaerephon at Delphi many years earlier.
“Well, one day he actually went to Delphi and asked this question of the god, what he asked was whether there was anyone wiser than myself. The Pythian priestess replied that there was no one. “
Puzzled and doubtful, Socrates started questioning the wisest men to find out what wisdom actually is. This was the beginning of Socrates’ philosophical enquiry. The prophecy was then fulfilled and Socrates became an influential philosopher by distrusting his own knowledge. The fulfillment of the prophecy consists in Socrates’ search for wisdom as an effect of his skepticism about the oracle’s claim.
This is how prophecies works: they do not tell the truth but what one needs to hear to engage with her destiny. It comes with no surprise that the motto at the entrance of temple in Delphi said “know thyself”. This is the prophecy that Socrates fulfilled for himself and for the people he questioned by making them realize that they were not so wise after all. As future philosophers, what the oracle would tell us?
Image: A memento mori mosaic from excavations in the convent of San Gregorio in Rome, featuring the Greek motto.
POST_005: ECONOMICS AND FINANCE
“Cartwright Millingville had never heard of the Thomas theorem. But he had no difficulty in recognizing its workings. He knew that, despite the comparative liquidity of the bank's assets, a rumor of insolvency, once believed by enough depositors, would result in the insolvency of the bank.”
In his paper “Self-fulfilling prophecy” (1948), Robert Merton introduces W.I. Thomas’s theorem: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”. The economist shows how it applies to the bank failures on what is remembered as Black Wednesday (1932). By telling the story of Millingville, the director of the National Bank at that time, Merton explains how rumors about negative future events can bring them about for real.
In contemporary financial markets there are many examples of self-fulfilling prophecies such as speculative bubbles and their sudden explosions. When investors are persuaded that prices will go up, they behave in such a way that the prediction turns out to be true. This holds until opposite rumors start spreading by provoking instantaneous falls. However, despite their name, such phenomena share nothing with prophetic oracles and they can be easily explained as the effect of imitation among gambling strategies.
POST_006: ANCIENT PROPHECIES (AZTECS I)
When the Aztec king Moctezuma II was crowned, the astrologer Nezhaulcoyotl gave detailed warnings of a new astrological age. One of the omens was a famine which actually developed in 1507. Then an earthquake occurred after the "Lighting of the New Age" ceremony inaugurated by Moctezuma II. Finally, in 1518 a comet was observed with three heads and sparks shooting from its tail, and seen flying eastward (today it is said to be the Halley’s Comet). This phenomenon appeared for 40 nights. A short time later, Cortes invaded Mexico and destroyed the Aztec civilization.
Did Nezhaulcoyotl really prophesize the end of Moctezuma’s empire? Were the omens real warnings of the impending catastrophe? If the Aztecs probably justified their destiny as the will of the gods, Spanish Christian conquerors turned the prophecy to their own advantage (more to come…)
Image: Aztec Sun Stone, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City.
POST_007: ANCIENT PROPHECIES (AZTECS II)
The Aztecs called their era the time of the 5th Sun—there had been four previous versions of the earth each ruled by different gods. Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, ruled over this era and he was supposed to come back at the end of it. According to the Aztec calendar, Moctezuma II’s kingdom was the last before the return of Quetzalcoalt and omens have been announcing the upcoming end the world. While considering Aztecs as superstitious, Spanish conquerors saw in the myth the reason for the defeat of pagans. Their version of the story is that Moctezuma mistook Cortez for the returning God so the Aztecs welcomed the enemies and provoked their own ruin. The prophecy was then fulfilled not because it was true but since false beliefs lead to perdition.
However, does the conquerors’ rational interpretation of the fulfillment of the prophecy actually prove the myth to be false? Weren’t the Christian believing in the prophecy of the triumph of their own truth?
Image: Representation of Quetzalcoatl (Codex Borbonicus, p.22)
POST_008: OMEN (HALLEY'S COMET, I)
“I came in with Halley's comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together”
This is a quote from Mark Twain’s autobiography. The writer was born on 30 November 1835, two weeks after Halley’s comet perihelion, surprisingly he died on 21 April 1910, the day following the comet's subsequent perihelion.
The periodic passage of the Halley’s comet has been seen as a prophetic sign since the beginning of the history of humanity… (more in the next post)
Illustration of the end of the world that was expected in May 1910 at the passage of the Halley’s comet