Prophecy is a process in which one or more messages that have been communicated to a prophet are then communicated to others. Such messages typically involve divine inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of conditioned events to come (cf. divine knowledge) as well as testimonies or repeated revelations that the world is divine. The process of prophecy especially involves reciprocal communication of the prophet with the (divine) source of the messages.
Various concepts of prophecy are found throughout all of the world’s religions and cults. To a certain degree prophecy can be an integral concept within any religion or cult. The term has found deep usage in two of the world’s largest religious groups, Christianity and Islam, along with many others.
In the New Testament, prophecy is referred to as one of the Spiritual gifts given by the indwelling Holy Spirit. From this, many Christians believe that the gift of prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive and convey a message from God. The purpose of the message may be to “edify, exhort and comfort” the members of the Church. In this context, not all prophecies contain predictions about the future. The Apostle Paul also teaches in First Corinthians that prophecy is for the benefit of the whole Church and not just the individual exercising the gift.
Muslims maintain that Prophet Muhammad experienced prophetic phenomena equated with interpretation of dreams, visions and remote viewing, which identify him as a prophet. Prophecies could be seen in the poem of 15th Century Kurdish poet El-Begi Jaff. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Number 112: Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle Muhammad said, “A good dream (that comes true) of a righteous man is one of forty-six parts of prophetism.”
In the Torah, prophecy often consisted of a conditioned warning by God of the consequences should the society, specific communities, or their leaders not adhere to Torah’s instructions in the time contemporary with the prophet’s life. Prophecies sometimes included conditioned promises of blessing for obeying God, and returning to behaviors and laws as written in the Torah. Conditioned warning prophecies feature in all Jewish works of the Tanakh.
The rabbinic teachings, notably Maimonides (Rambam), suggest there were many levels of prophecy, from the highest such as those experienced by Moses, to the lowest where the individuals were able to apprehend the Divine Will, but not respond or even describe this experience to others, mistakenly citing Noah.
Native American prophecy
Numerous cases of prophecy exist among the Native American populations. The Onandaga and Hopi, among others, have prophecies that appear to relate to the times we are entering now. For example, the Onandaga talk of a time when the water will not be fit to drink from the streams. This, they say, will signify the beginning of a period they call the great purification, where the peoples will go through immense trials to purify themselves of the corrupting influences that have beset them. This, they say, will be seen as a period of joy for those who understand what is happening and engage this period as a time of purification, but will be a period of immense suffering for those who cling to their corrupted worldview and lifestyles. The Book of the Hopi can be seen as a work of prophecy — it discusses both the ancient history of the ages that came before, the current age, and the times to come.
There exists a problem in verifying most Native American prophecy, in that they remain primarily an oral tradition, and thus there is no way to cite references of where writings have been committed to paper. In their system, the best reference is an Elder, who acts as a repository of the accumulated wisdom of their tradition.
In another type of example, it is recorded that there are three Dogrib prophets who had claimed to have been divinely inspired to bring the message of Christianity’s God to their people. This prophecy among the Dogrib involves elements such as dances and trance-like states.
Esoteric prophecy has been claimed for, but not by, Michel de Nostredame popularly referred to as Nostradamus who claimed to be a converted Christian. It is known that he had suffered several tragedies in his life, and had been persecuted to some degree for his cryptic esoteric writings about the future, reportedly derived through a use of a crystal ball. Nostradamus was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of foreknowledge of future events. He is best known for his book Les Propheties (“The Prophecies”), the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Since the publication of this book, Nostradamus has attracted an esoteric following that, along with the popularistic press, credits him with foreseeing world events. His esoteric cryptic foreseeing have in some cases been assimilated to the results of applying the alleged Bible code, as well as to other purported pseudo-prophetic works.
Most reliable academic sources maintain that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus’s quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power. Moreover, none of the sources listed offers any evidence that anyone has ever interpreted any of Nostradamus’s pseudo-prophetic works specifically enough to allow a clear identification of any event in advance.