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Elements of prophecy – reflections and new directions

The Sibyl (1891), Paul Ranson via Tumblr

Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi film Minority Report (2002) is soon to be re-imagined as a TV series by Fox.

In the original Minority Report three clairvoyants called Precogs (precognitives) spend their days in deep meditation, afloat in water. Their job is to predict murders that could take place in the future. Tom Cruise, a good and honest cop, relies on the Precogs to arrest would-be criminals just before they commit a homicide.

Minority Report puts an interesting twist on the idea of precognition because, in real life, individuals claiming to possess this ability are often treated with suspicion, even derision. But the Precogs’ abilities are highly valued and they are given a kind of eerie reverence.

True and False

As the administrator of Earthpages.org, I’ve met many complex and fascinating seekers, on and offline. Some claim that spirit beings appear or speak to them. Others believe they have seen objects, places or souls during their astral travels. Several allegedly read minds; and some say they’ve had a vision of Christ or the Holy Trinity. And like the PreCogs, others claim to foresee the future.

Dealing with alleged psychics and mind-readers is both rewarding and challenging. If psychic abilities are real, it seems there’s no guarantee they’ll be applied ethically. For instance, those who haven’t dealt with personal pain could take a compensatory turn toward self-aggrandizement.¹

Clearly, some folks do take a wrong turn in the spiritual life, and a few might be repeatedly deceived and paranoid. Interior perception is an exacting process and not everyone does it well.

Leading writers on mysticism like Evelyn Underhill say that sincere mystics strive to be humble and analytical in order to avoid deception by the imagination or by negative spiritual influences (traditionally viewed as “demons,” “tramp souls” and “ghosts”).

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym ...

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym of Thomism. Picture by Fra Angelico (c. 1395-1455). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this is the ideal. In reality, many alleged psychics and prophets seem pretty out to lunch. They speak in such roundabout terms that their predictions could mean a thousand different things. And when flat wrong, some of them just fudge it. False prophecies are quickly swept under the rug or recast as “symbolic” predictions.

Philosophers call this the ad hoc hypothesis or possibly ex post facto reasoning. Rather than openly admitting mistakes (as an honest researcher would) sham mystics do their best to cover them up.

Christian Response

Christian theologians say that genuine prophecy is revealed or infused from a supernatural source. They also tend to believe that God is omnipotent. This means God could use weak and sinful personalities for genuine prophecy, even for a short while. According to this view, one doesn’t have to be a holy guru to be a prophet. For Christians, no one is perfect. And to claim otherwise is misguided.

In Catholicism, personal revelations are called private revelations. Private revelations occurring after the time of Christ are said to add nothing to the faith as defined by the Church. But private revelations declared authentic may have inspirational or cultural value.

Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”²

New Directions

Of course, many modern people question the authority of a traditional religious body that, in he past, has proved to be just as susceptible to temptation and error as anyone else. Historically, the Catholic Church has made gruesome mistakes, only to apologize hundreds of years later.

It’s also entirely possible that even the best of prophets distort their revelations through their unique personalities. That is, they interpret according to who they are at a given moment in history. According to the view, much of the Bible is laced with cultural bias and political infighting. That hardly sounds like the “Word” of God.

Guercino, The Persian Sibyl, 1647-48 via Tumblr

So where does this leave us? And by what standard do sincere seekers judge interior perceptions?

I think the answer might be found in a cross fertilization of psychology and spirituality. Einstein once said “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”³  Perhaps we could adapt that to something like, “psychology without spirituality is superficial, spirituality without psychology is questionable.”

Only then can we move forward to a spirituality suitable for the 21st century and beyond.


¹ Many saints say that vanity and jealousy figure prominently in the spiritual life. The more we open to spiritual realities, the more vulnerable we are to temptation and deception.

² Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 67. Catholic theology looks at prophecy in its own unique way. St. Thomas Aquinas is often cited in Catholic discussions about prophecy. But we’d do well to remember that after having a direct encounter with God, toward the end of his life, Aquinas apparently said his writings were like a “house of straw.”

³ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

Copyright © Michael W. Clark 2014


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Review – Tales of the Dead (DVD)

Image courtesy Reality Entertainment

Title: Tales of the Dead!
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Distribution: Reality Entertainment

Originally posted 2010/09/08

Just in time for Halloween. Tales of the Dead is a vivid introduction to the realm of horror as envisioned by the independent UK filmmaker, Kemal Yildirim.

Not being a huge horror fan, myself, it took me a while to get past my biases and crack open the DVD case, let alone watch this film.

On first try I just reviewed snippets to prepare myself for what I’d be in for. This allowed me to get my proverbial shields up and watch the entire film, later that evening. And yes, this definitely is a movie to be watched after dark. You might want to take it to a Halloween party. Maybe not!

Tales of the Dead is not for the weak of heart. It’s pretty shocking, contains brief nudity, and isn’t shy of presenting graphic violence.

Without serving up a spoiler, the basic story is about five friends who gather for a private Halloween party. This convincing part of the film is replete with drinking, smoking and profane language, as many of the younger crowd no doubt carry on in these days of global recession and the war on terror.

The film quickly shifts to the surreal as the revelers begin telling ghost stories and grim tales of urban horror. Several the five party guests bring short horror videos to share with their friends, which effectively leads into and unifies different shorts.

The first video, “Less is More” calls to mind several classic horror themes, aptly synthesized to make it difficult to trace a particular influence to a given scene. A bit of Edgar Allen Poe here, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle there. The plot involves a severely troubled woman who desires a mysterious surgery that she believes will cure all her problems. Her decent husband tries to understand but, as her obsession mounts, he can only take so much. A social worker suggests she try a psychiatrist, but a coincidental encounter in the night takes her entirely somewhere else.

The result? Well, let’s just say that this kind of film making is certainly not for everyone.

The second short, “Wolf Cry” is surprisingly clever at places, even if you’re not into horror, per se. We see into a young man’s incredibly delusional, amusing and horrifying imagination. This is probably the smartest segment of the DVD, sociologically speaking. Some scenes turn out to be ingeniously fresh vignettes about systemic hypocrisy and, as the sociologist Max Weber once put it, the Protestant work ethic.

“Penance,” the third short, also plays on several existing horror themes. In the DVD’s special features, Yildirim explains that he wants to pay homage to some of the great directors within the genre while still making his own cinematic statement.

And this he does.

In this short, a boozy British police inspector is called to investigate a disturbing homicide. The inspector apparently has links with the killer, and sometimes we wonder if he, himself, is the maniac.

The fourth short, “Missing” plays on the fabled Cromwell’s Curse, which in urban legend is linked to the historical Northamptonshire witch trials of 1612. This portion contains some haunting street and good library scenes, but I found it the least engaging of the lot. We hear lots of “Oh my God… did you see that?” but don’t really witness anything for ourselves.

Oh yes, it’s all fiction and archetypal fun. I forgot. But if so, a few actors running through the night in white sheets might have helped.

The final tale is told by the only woman at the Halloween party. Like her guy friends, she’s trendy and hip. But unlike her groovy pals, she doesn’t bring a video to the party. Her story is apparently real…

Special features for Tales of the Dead include “The Making of Wolf Cry” and “The Making of Penance.” These sneak peeks show how an indie horror film is actually made. They reveal the hard work, camaraderie and technology that goes into independent film making—ironically humanizing our experience of an, otherwise, totally “out there” film.

—MC


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The Disease

Paradise Lost – Paul Gustave Dore (via Tumblr)

Here’s a poem I wrote somewhere between 1997 and 1999. I’d just finished my Ph.D and was staying in an apartment in an old, run-down house in Ottawa.

At first, I saw “The Disease” as a metaphor for heavy ideas like J.-P. Sartre’s bad faith, Erich Fromm’s mechanical man, Albert Camus’ The Plague and the sociological concept of false consciousness.

The poem wasn’t planned. It mostly came in a stream of consciousness. While tapping away on my old Toshiba 286 laptop I remember thinking just how foreboding it was getting (“rotting sky…all are doomed to die”) and not really knowing why. But I followed my instinct and didn’t delete the heavy parts.

After 9/11, I felt that this foreboding verse could be taken as a premonition. As the new millennium approached, not a few artists and sensitives seemed to be picking up something rotten on their radar.

That said, around the same time I was reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. So one could say that I wasn’t foreseeing anything—just subconsciously aping the greats and their treatment of evil.

God only knows.

The Disease

I’ve watched it grow
I’ve seen it sow
true minds into despair

souls of sorrow
ladened deep
burning horrid stares

I’ve seen it work
at lightning speed
to destroy mankind’s seed

through the air
it does its deed
this is its only care

sans partiality
sans decency
Yes, this is “the disease”

You over there!
you believe you’re clear
of this melancholy breeze?

Well let me tell you
if you please
it’s a fatal,
dreadful siege

For once contracted
once enacted
you’ll go on normally
“it’s okay”
“I’m just fine”
“yes, I think I am still free”

But then, alas!
the grippe is tightened
beyond all points of ease
and shipwrecked sailors on the sea of life
all drown
irrevocably

Yes I’ve seen this blight
‘cross this land
and winds are blowing high
no apple pie nor starlit nights
will save this rotting sky
all is darkened
all are dead
all are doomed to die

Lance it fast while time remains
avoid a fearsome plight
destroy this curse
and rest assured
your mark is
for the
light

Cast it out and let us pray
“Lord give us back our sight”
Cast it out to guarantee,
Truth shall conquer might


The Disease © Michael Clark 1997 to present. All rights reserved.


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The story behind The Bible

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mini review: An Introduction to the Bible by J. W. Rogerson

This introduction to the historical aspects of the Bible should be required reading for every religious person who talks about “The Word” without ever really thinking about what they mean.

Shows how the Bible was put together by (mostly) men over the centuries. God may have overseen the entire process, but the Bible didn’t drop down directly from heaven.

Here’s a freely online revised edition, with minor updates to the original >> https://archive.org/details/J.w.Rogerson-AnIntroductionToTheBibleRevisedEdition

—MC


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Her – Review by MC

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ - low res image for review and educational purposes

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ – low res image for review and educational purposes

I watched Spike Jonze’s film, Her, the other night. A few more points came to mind that weren’t covered here, mostly about different types of love (eros, agape, and so on). But this was my first shot at audio reviewing, so I was lucky to get as much in as I did. No notes or excessive thinking beforehand. Just first impressions…

I should add that I was somewhat inspired by the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who takes fashion photos on the streets of New York and talks about them every week at The Times’ website. If the documentary about Cunningham is accurate, it seems that he takes a quick look at his pics on a storyboard before taping his weekly commentary. I like that spontaneity, and tried to emulate it here.

Maybe with practice I’ll be half as good at this as he is!


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Review – Reality UFO Series Volume 1: The Evidence is Here (DVD)

Reality Films

Dr. Roger Leir passsed away on March 14, so I thought it would be a good time to reblog this DVD review, posted back in 2009—MC

Reality UFO Series Volume 1: The Evidence is Here explores the possibility of alien life, expanded reality and directed human evolution.

The DVD features several speakers at the 2003 International Scientific & Metaphysical Symposium and an interview with a US reporter on the controversial Billy Meier case.

Part 1 looks at Dr. Roger K. Leir and his original theories about alien implants, genetic manipulation and accelerated human development. A down-to-earth medical man, Dr. Leir presents evidence from his alleged alien implant extraction procedure along with several decades of statistics on the changing rates of child development. But as a scientist he admits that he doesn’t have all the answers—only theories leading to more questions.

Part 2 introduces Travis Walton. Walton tells of his encounter with an alien spacecraft while working as a logger in 1975. Saying he was forcibly taken aboard the spacecraft, he carefully describes what he saw, right down to the unusual instrumentation panels and strange, morphing star charts. Travis wraps up his account by saying that he was rudely ejected from the craft, left lying face-down beside the highway and, utterly exhausted, having to struggls to the nearest town.

Part 3 features an interview with Michael Horn who gives an engaging account of the Billy Meier case. Horn summarizes Meier’s life and ideas and discusses the nature of knowledge and religious belief. Those interested in Meier, his prophecies, dire warnings and advocacy of a global “course correction” toward a peaceful New World Order will probably like this segment.

Part 4 includes Kathleen Anderson’s presentation on UFOs, the ancient Sumerians, theories about multidimensional reality and the relativity of space and time. Anderson’s relentless questioning, considerable research skills and cutting edge illustrations should compel even the most hardened skeptics, scholars and pragmatists to stop and rethink their beliefs about life and the world around us.

In short, The Evidence is Here is all about recent ET and UFO theories as seen through the split lens of science and spirit. Believers wanting to understand what goes on behind the scenes of the ET/UFO scene should love this DVD.

—MC


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Contention with the classics

Originally posted on Blog of Natalie Gorna:

The genre we have named “the classics” are a tricky bunch to like.  It’s not just that some are written in a foreign language or in a dialect of one’s native language that is centuries/decades old.  Or that the author takes forever to get to “plot progression” (in other words, making the story go on). Or that the whole book can be literally exhausting for the mind to understand.  It’s not the length, the subgenre, the writing style, the vocabulary, or the time period when the work was written.  Public pressure, media adoration, film adaptations: these are all factors to consider. Usually every person has expectations (e.g. from recommendations and favorite TV series) for the classics, especially in view of that worldwide thought that classic reading is good reading. And when it comes to reading certain classics, it’s literally like trying to translate your modern understanding of the work and/or your preconceptions into a entirely different language when your mind is processing the actual, original text.

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