Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Do We Seek to Know the Future of Our World?

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying,
My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46:9, 10)

by S. Douglass Woodward
History demonstrates humankind covets the truth about the end of the world.  But our intent is much more than merely discerning how soon the end may be.  It’s more than just curiosity which drives this obsession.  It’s about finding certainty.  For many, the study of prophecy is the means to determine what worldview is correct.  In other words, prophecy has the power to disclose which religious perspective is right and which others are wrong.   Prophecy is a litmus test for what we should believe.  As such, we don’t just hunger to know the future.  We also seek proof that what we believe isn’t ridiculous – but truth we can count on. Therefore, built into our human makeup is the quest for direct experience of spiritual reality, establishing purpose in life, and gaining certitude about what we believe.  The spiritual quest involves all three.

The History Channel recently presented a documentary on history’s most famous ‘seers’ – parading one prognosticator after another before its viewers.  It spent a good deal of time on modern day prophets as well as the possibility that precognition may be an innate faculty in all humankind.  The documentary substantiated how occult practice reached its zenith at the end of the 19th century.  The extent of belief in the supernatural was widespread.  There were millions of subscribers to dozens of journals on spiritualism.  Crystal ball gazing, palmistry, and divination of all kinds were frequent ‘parlor tricks’ which many believed involved more than simple magic.  Mediums, palm readers, fortune tellers, and more serious occult practitioners were to be found throughout Europe, England, and America.  In this exposé, the focus was the individual believer and what the future had in store for that specific person.   And yet, the seriousness of the subject underscored there was more to it than just ‘checking out the daily horoscope.’

State-side, American Transcendentalism in the first half the 19th century (think Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau) gave way to Theosophy in the 1880’s (Henry Steel Olcott and Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky).  These writers provided a philosophical foundation (and some degree of sophistication) for an otherwise purely occult and fantastic worldview.  In the former case mere intuition was championed whereas in the latter, channeling spirits (who pretentiously commented on history, philosophy, as well as predicted the future), was argued to be a more reliable source of knowledge than pure reason. 

As documented in my books, Theosophy demands a careful treatment since its ideology is much more serious than merely ‘mind over matter.’  At the end of the 19th century, it flowered into a syncretistic religion infecting America but Europe in particular, combining Hindu, Buddhist, and pseudo-science into an amalgamation boasting supernatural ‘miracles.’

Theosophy prospered from the 1880’s until the late 1940’s, when it became better known that the Nazi regime based much of its evil upon Theosophy’s extreme doctrines asserting Aryanism, occult practices, and a view of history built upon the lost continent of Atlantis (The ‘Secret Doctrine’).  Despite such remarkable mythical beliefs which included the myths of ‘fire and ice,’ the ‘hollow earth,’ and racial origins stemming from seven root races of the Atlanteans (spurring the anti-Semitism of Nazism) much of its ‘wisdom’ was associated with Egyptian mythology.  The stories of Isis, Osiris, and Horus would continue to live on in the practice of Freemasonry (and in the more secretive cults of Rosicrucianism and the practice of Alchemy). 

Indeed, Freemasonry is perhaps the world’s most universal religion – a religion which claims it’s no such thing.  However, Freemasonry is much more than a charitable fraternity.  It’s built upon a smartly packaged form of paganism, complete with its particular view of God, and especially hope for the afterlife.  It too has its own predictions about the future.  Masonic prophecies mirror many of what evangelicals hold to be true:  It predicts a future world leader will arise, declare his authority in a future Jewish Temple (which they, like orthodox Jews, wish to see rebuilt), and institute a form of government based upon pure reason AND the wisdom of the ancients.[i]  This leader is not just to be a clever human being endowed with the gift of oration, but is in fact, purportedly a divine being intent on ruling humankind.  The books of Freemasonry intellectuals, Manly P. Hall and Albert Pike, spell out these plans and predictions in plain English and are available at the local bookstore.  There should be no reason to doubt what the mission of Freemasonry is.  It is clearly disclosed.[ii]  It’s no surprise evangelicals suspect this forecasted fuehrer to be none other than the Antichrist.

To take this path a bit further:  It’s captivating how the impact of magicians of the 19th century led to many aspects of the most scientific of US governmental projects:  The 20th century space program.  In particular, one fascinating person, Jack Parsons who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), was personally steeped in black ‘magick.’  Parson was the head of the Pasadena chapter of Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an order begun by Samuel Mather at the turn of the 19th century, alongside the infamous Aleister Crowley.  Modeled after Freemasonry (both were 33˚ Freemasons) the order was based upon what members called the Thelema Law:  “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” (i.e., “Do whatever you want is our one law – the only law we accept!”)  Previously in 1935, Parsons married Helen Northrup (a name those in aeronautics will recognize). Parsons was a genuine genius in rocket science, developing solid rocket fuel which overcame many of the dangers with liquid fuel (all too often causing rocket explosions on the launch pad!)  His inventions and designs for ‘booster rockets’ remain the basis for NASA’s rocket propulsion systems today.  Few know that one of his founding colleagues was a NAZI (Theodore von Kármán) and another conspicuous gentlemen, L. Ron Hubbard founder of Scientology, was a Navy spy sent into JPL to keep an eye on these two.  Parson and Crowley were great friends until Crowley died in 1947.   Hubbard eventually ran off to Florida with Parson’s wife, Helen, after Helen’s sister, Sara had an affair with Parsons owing to the sexual magick of Crowley (Crowley insists that magic be spelled with a “k”). Parson was mysteriously killed in 1952 in his personal laboratory.  While declared a suicide, many consider his death murder. L. Ron Hubbard went on to author notable science fiction works and create the Scientology cosmology (to many, another form of science fiction), that several public figures in America continue to support (Tom Cruise and John Travolta being the two most famous).

Today, popular attention is focused on 2012 and the possibility that the Mayan Calendar (which culminates on December 21, 2012), signifies the end of humanity.  In reality, there is much  more to the whole ‘2012 thing’ that just a few predictions that the world is coming to an end.  Most of the ‘hubbub’ about 2012 is actually a loosely formed religion founded on Theosophist roots taking New Age affirmations to the next level.  Many of the 2012 books promulgate the transformation of humanity which supposedly culminates late in 2012 (or soon thereafter).  This revolution in consciousness links to an old world view that human history is comprised of  various ‘ages’ typically characterized as iron, silver,  gold, and finally an age usually sporting a disparaging label, normally associated with the world in which we now live.[iii]  For instance, the Hindu ‘Kali Yuga’ is the current age of depravity soon concluding (in 2012 or in about 200 years, the timing depends upon which guru you subscribe to) and yielding the next golden age.  Likewise, ‘The Age of Aquarius’ – for those into astrology – comprises the next age characterized by enlightenment.  According to the ‘2012 religion,’ true enlightenment requires acquiring a ‘higher consciousness’ – wherein we remain in constant contact with the supernatural beings surrounding us – as well as the inner mindfulness that we are gods, capable of infinite possibilities.

So it is that the 2012 ‘movement’ is today’s most chic form of prophecy.  In 2012 the transition event – a time of choice – reveals the moment of redemption for humankind or becomes the final straw spelling our doom.  If we don’t choose wisely, we shall succumb to our atavistic, materialistic, and especially capitalistic behaviors thereby sliding down the slippery slope to ruin.  One thing is certain:  2012 thinking isn’t likely to find its way into the Republican platform in 2012.

When it comes to prophecy in the historic major religions, we see a distinct increase in the caliber of what is prophesied.  Predictions span centuries if not millenniums. Specific prophecies typically involve nations if not the entire globe.   And yet, compared to the Judeo-Christian faith, there is relative little emphasis on prophecy.  Furthermore, there is little regard for resting the validity of the religion upon its accurate fulfillment.  But in the Bible, prophecy matters ‘really matter.’

In the case of Evangelicalism, conservative scholars affirm that the authenticity of our faith rests on the spectacular accuracy of what is prophesied in the Bible.  In particular, Christianity asserts that Jesus Christ fulfilled scores of prophesies from the Old Testament regarding the nature of the Messiah, His origins, purpose, and destiny.  The pinnacle of this ‘messianic prophecy’ is seen in two particular places spanning entire chapters in the Bible (See Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22).  Some say Jesus fulfilled over 60 specific prophecies related to the Messiah.

Whether we profess faith in Jesus as Christ or not, except for the few who are hard-core naturalists (believing humans are purely the product of materialistic evolution), the vast majority of humankind strives to know why we are here

Underlying this hypothesis rests a staunch belief in purpose.  Humankind’s presence is no accident.  That’s why it’s only the spiritually minded who eagerly tackle this quest.  Should we discover this information truly exists, it throws a com­pletely new light on the issue of meaning.  That’s why the quest isn’t exclusively a Christian excursion.  Quite to the contrary, the religious of most flavors are steadfast in their efforts to uncover whether or not this compulsion concerning the future is warranted.  And yet, it is the teaching of Judaism and Christianity that prophecy is the litmus test for which religion comprises ultimate truth. Discovering who knows the future (who can accurately predict what will in fact happen) is the test God sets forth.  He asserts:  

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. (Isaiah 46:9, 10)

That’s why his standard for accuracy is simple:  It’s 100% right, 100% of the time.  There’s no room for missing one prophecy.  A prophet who predicts something that doesn’t come true should be stoned.  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says:

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
 And if thou say in thine heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?’  When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

Once we settle this question, which religion knows what the future holds, we can logically conclude that it might be smart to pay attention to whatever else the religion holds true.  There is a historical basis for regarding THAT religion to be ‘in the know’ presumably on all of life’s ultimate questions.

For believers in the Judeo-Christian concept of afterlife or the Kingdom of God, we suppose our next life will be much better than our life today.  Cer­tainly, we want our problems and pain eliminated by the coming of Messiah.  It may be doomsday for the world, but because we expect salva­tion, we look forward to the Kingdom of God ; we see it as our solu­tion and our destiny.  Decoding the apocalypse informs us just how soon ‘rest from our toils’ arrives.  Indeed, reassurance grows from remembering this ‘rest’ lies directly ahead.

Taken to the extreme, this motive becomes irresponsible.  It can even prove we lack true faith.  But looking forward to the ‘City of God’[iv] (an historic image representing the New Jerusalem), may reveal our faith.  St. Paul says of Abraham, For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.” (Hebrews 11:10)  And of those who have died in faith looking forward to their future reward:  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth... But now they desire a better [country], that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (verses 13, 16).

The Bible commends those who look forward to the return of Christ and for those who seek His Kingdom.  For instance, only the Book of Revelation  promises a blessing to those who read it

In summary, seeing prophecy fulfilled in our day reinforces our faith.  Prophecy fulfilled offers proof that what we believe is much more than wishful thinking.

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