‘Prophecy’, by Angela Voss
Ghosts, Spirits and Psychics: The Paranormal from Alchemy to Zombies ed. M. Cardin, ABC-Clio, 233-236
Prophecy (from the Greek prophemi meaning “to say beforehand, foretell”) can be defined as the ability to foretell future events or conditions through an innate supernatural or paranormal ability to speak from a viewpoint of divine authority. Prophecy is therefore similar to mediumship or channeling in its purported ability to receive emanations from a divine being or higher intelligence, and convey these revelations to others. Prophets are found in all the world’s major religions, and R.J. Stewart describes prophecy as “a spiritual and psychic event that has influenced the development of humankind upon the planet, and which forms, as a secondary ramification of the prophetic event itself, one of the foundations for cultures and religions through history” (Stewart, 1990, 7). Similarly, J-P. Vernant defines prophetic divination as an “irruption of divine immutability and omniscience into the inconstant flux of human existence” (Vernant,1991, 315).
In the West there are two traditions in which prophecy plays a major role: ancient paganism (as practised in the Graeco-Roman world, and as theorised in th Greek philosophy) and Judaeo-Christianity. In both cases, prophecy is clearly distinguished from sorcery, magic and forms of ‘inducutive’ divination (divination using specific technical apparatus), being reliant on direct communication from a divine source which supercedes human will or inference. However it is impossible to distinguish Christian prophecy from ‘natural’ forms of pagan divination where information is gained through dreams, visions or inspirations, because the spiritual authority may be identified in a variety of different ways (e.g. Gods, angels, saints, daimones, heroes or deceased ancestors). From a psychological point of view, prophecy can be defined as a type of intuitive knowing which bypasses the usual sensory channels and rational intellect. From the perspective of Platonic and esoteric philosophy, such intuitive knowing is ontologically prior to rational deduction or sense-perception as it is conveyed directly from the Divine Mind to the highest part of the human soul, known as the intuitive intellect, and is then subject to rational interpretation and analysis.