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On Prophets and Purpose

My favorite Biblical story has always been the Genesis tale of Joseph, abandoned by his brothers and left for dead, then imprisoned by the Pharoah in a strange land.  Joseph survived the abuse by his siblings and not only discovered  purpose but reinvented and elevated himself by interpreting the dreams of the Pharoah.  People often assign psychic abilities to Joseph but I agree with those critics who see this error: it was not Joseph who was the psychic; it was  Pharoah.  Joseph was merely the translator of  dream.  The dream itself was an expression of the Divine.

Joseph Campbell identifies dreams as a great source of the spirit, and those who do metaphysical work know this.  Dreams are vivid and visual and often more revelatory than waking consciousness. The irony is that we sometimes go through our waking life in a stupor while our dreams shock us into the more potent reality.    I cherish my dreams; some of my most profound recognitions occurred in the dream state.  Many of them involved animals, like the wolf who came to me during a physical attack in which I defended myself violently.  I picked up a pillowcase full of bricks and was swinging it wildly to neutralize my attackers, when  suddenly the contents changed shape and I felt something soft and warm and alive inside.   I opened the pillowcase to find wolf pups. One of them emerged and said,  "Stop.  When you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us."  I carry this message in my heart every time I am tempted to strike back at someone who hurts me, and believe me, I am often very tempted.

Thus the wolf comes to me as a prophet.  Fundamentalists of any religion restrict use of that word to Biblical context and appear indignant when it is used outside of Scripture (Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah -- these were the only prophets).   Last week this came up unexpectedly in a chaplaincy  course I'm taking with five clergymen  and a religious school teacher from various Christian and Jewish traditions.  The Baptist shared his calling to ministry.  An Orthodox Jewish teacher asked, "What's a calling?"  He said, "It's a calling from God."  Perplexed, she continued, "I don't understand."  I jumped in as mediator:  "What's that smoke on the mountain, Moses?"  The African Methodist Episcopal supervisor agreed, "Yes, like Moses getting the call from God."  The confused woman looked at the Baptist and said with machine gun speed, "But Moses was a prophet.  You're not."  I was disturbed.

After class she and I engaged in our usual 20 minute reflective chat in the parking lot.  She  worried that she might have reacted  abruptly;  her experience doesn't include people who hear God's voice.  She asked me, "Do you think God talks to you?"  I said, "Yes, you don't?"  She was adamant.  "No.  Never.  God doesn't talk to people.  We learn about God through the Torah.  No one is a prophet."

I took a breath and a risk because I would be demonstrating why I am no longer bound to Judaism, the religion of my birth.  "God talks to me.  God talks to the Baptist minister.  God talks to the young man who decides to be a priest or the woman who answers the call in the convent.  It's a voice, a message from a consciousness that is much higher than one's physical self.  In this sense we are prophets.  I am a prophet. I may not be leading masses across a raging sea, but if I bring one person to the Light then I am a prophet."

I hold this truth to be self evident (with apologies to Jefferson).   We are all prophets when we listen to  higher consciousness.

Webster defines prophet in multiple ways:
one who utters divinely inspired revelations: as
a often capitalized : the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible
b capitalized : one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God's will Prophet of Allah>
: one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; especially : an inspired poet 
I go further and  rely both on experience and Joseph Campbell's western articulation of mythological concepts: animals are often the messengers of that higher  realm.  Tribal folk, mediums, meditators, psychics will attest to that.  

Whether household companions, visitors in the wild, or teachers in our dreamtime,  animals are often our prophets, spiritual messengers bringing gifts of comfort and wisdom, even if that comfort and wisdom is sheer presence.

This week the Pope declared the Christmas manger  a piece of inaccurate  modern fiction.  For obvious reasons, I choose to discard this.  I like the myth, the love it propagates, the four legged and winged love, inter-species, inter-dimensional love.

The holiday season is upon us.  May you find feathers at your feet.


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Visual and Visionary Part 2: The Images

The Grief of the Pasha

by Jean Leone Gerome

The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau

The Bear Dance by
William Holbrook Beard

Spirit Wolf
by Susan Seddon Boulet

Calico Kitty by Georg Williams

Blue Dog (the original)
by George Rodrigue

Bodo Flying through the Night
by Martin LaBorde