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The Chances of Being a Prophet

Jarhyn

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Something I have been wondering at... So, there have been a few successful prophets in our world. Aaron, Isaac, Noah, John, Moses, Homer, the earlier authors of the prose Edda, Socrates, Solomon, and so on.

Now, this is not to say that all or any prophet knows truth. Far from, I would say. But this does lead to the question of prevalence; not counting "popes" and "successors", this implies we can say something about the rate of this kind of behavior and mentality across antiquity.

For instance is it one for every so many born?

Or is it one per so many years.

I wonder how it would graph out, both including and excluding "successors" and "popes".
 

Politesse

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I'd point out that in ancient world, "prophet" was a common position in royal courts; there were thousands of them at anygiven time. There are also millions of diviners practicing their craft in the world today: astrologers, Ifa priests, tarot readers, economists. Prophecy may not be as rare a gift as all that.
 

untermensche

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There have been no real prophets.

There have been no humans who saw the future before it happened.

There have been many con men and deluded humans however.

Humans are a species of animal. Like a duck.

None have magic powers.
 

steve_bank

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I would say in ancient times when illiteracy and superstition dominated a prophet would be someone who stepped outside the norms seeing where thigs were going

Geologically Jesus was warning his fellow Jews to get it together or face destruction by Rome.

In my generation some considered the folk musicians Pete Seeger and Peter & Paul & Mary prophets. In the previous generation Woody Guthrie.

MLK and Gandhi. From a bio I read Europeans who showed up to hang out with Gandhi treated as a prophet on a pedestal.

In the 60s some thought Timothy Leary with his LSD based mysticism was a prophet.

Historically prophets did not fare well.
 

bilby

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I'd point out that in ancient world, "prophet" was a common position in royal courts; there were thousands of them at anygiven time. There are also millions of diviners practicing their craft in the world today: astrologers, Ifa priests, tarot readers, economists. Prophecy may not be as rare a gift as all that.

Or it might be a very lucrative but effective fraud, and therefore (like other lucrative and effective scams) popular and widespread.

Which explanation has the advantage over the 'not a rare gift' hypothesis, that it doesn't contradict the physics of information transmission in spacetime. Obviously that physics could be wrong, but if it is, we then have to explain why it conforms as perfectly with reality as we are able to measure.

The hypothesis that anyone (much less many people) has ever been able to prophesise anything, lacks parsimony and is supported only by the worst possible kinds of evidence - while being undermined by the disappearance of the purported ability as soon as any attempts are made to study it rigorously.

If we have to pick between "people tell lies for fun, profit, and personal advancement" vs "people have abilities that contradict well tested physical attributes of the universe", it's really not reasonable to argue for the latter.
 

rousseau

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If we have to pick between "people tell lies for fun, profit, and personal advancement"

A mix of self-delusion and charisma, and if they're smart enough sometimes full-blown deceit. For the latter, someone like Jordan Peterson comes to mind.
 

ideologyhunter

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I see a large round room. Make that roundish, more parabolic, or let us settle on oval. A large roundish or oval room. And the nations of the earth sent their emissaries there. And a great tannish or rusty ochre, or let us say orangeish, entity dwelt there, but was cast out. And the nations cried out. And the people rose up and (a "lo" is required here) -- lo, they stormed the domed citadel. And eight months and a week from that day, the rusty-ochre, or, more plainly, the orangeish eminence, will return in glory to the oval or ovoid room. The vision is now complete and ended, I see no more. For, in sooth, if I told you of the orange being, its ten horns and seven heads, and on each horn a crown, and on each crown a blasphemy -- ye would freak.
Vision, end!
I know mine and mine know me.
 

untermensche

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I would say in ancient times when illiteracy and superstition dominated a prophet would be someone who stepped outside the norms seeing where thigs were going

Geologically Jesus was warning his fellow Jews to get it together or face destruction by Rome.

In my generation some considered the folk musicians Pete Seeger and Peter & Paul & Mary prophets. In the previous generation Woody Guthrie.

MLK and Gandhi. From a bio I read Europeans who showed up to hang out with Gandhi treated as a prophet on a pedestal.

In the 60s some thought Timothy Leary with his LSD based mysticism was a prophet.

Historically prophets did not fare well.

It is not likely this Jesus character ever existed.

 

ideologyhunter

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In my judgment, the only demonstrably infallible prophet was the mysterious Minoan seer, Li'our F'Nanni (ca. 2050-2000 BCE) whose chief work, Li'Mutta Sandi, contains irrefutable truths:

"Lo, the sun shall recommense its heavenly course on the morrow; I say, ye may wager thy ultimate obol on the vision, that there shall be sunlight."
--Li'Mutta Sandi, VII:40, Lattimore translation
True today as the day it was written.
 

untermensche

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The good thing about that one is if you're wrong one day there won't be anybody around to notice.
 
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