Skip to main content

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>
2
: 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.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

God’s Covenant With Animals: Stewardship, Not Rule

What is our human responsibility to the earth and its non-human inhabitants?  Traditional Biblical scholars would say one of master-servant and ecologists would say one of caretaker.  However, using either frame, neither movement has responded in full view of the evidence presented throughout the Bible that God clearly included animals in covenantal relationships. With Biblical scholars neglecting  the sanctity of animals and secular environmentalists neglecting God.  A closer look at the Old Testament reveals that God designed humankind’s role in relation to the animals as one of stewardship rather than domination .  Traditionally religious people often cite  Scripure justify  a master/servant relationship between humans and animals  rather than one of partnership, but  deeper investigation invites us to see texts rich with references, both literal and figurative, to the partnership between humankind and the animal world.  From Genesis through Prophets and Wisdom Literature, the

God's Covenant with Animals in the Old Testament

What is our human responsibility to the earth and its non-human inhabitants? Traditional Biblical scholars would say one of master-servant and ecologists would say one of caretaker. However, using either frame, neither movement has responded in full view of the evidence presented throughout the Bible that God clearly included animals in covenantal relationships with Biblical scholars neglecting the sanctity of animals and secular environmentalists neglecting God. A closer look at the Old Testament reveals that God designed humankind’s role in relation to the animals as one of stewardship rather than domination. Traditionally religious people often cite Scripure justify a master/servant relationship between humans and animals rather than one of partnership, but deeper investigation invites us to see texts rich with references, both literal and figurative, to the partnership between humankind and the animal world. From Genesis through Prophets and Wisdom Literature, the writers of the Ol

Why I Chose Animals

I suppose my mother had something to do with me loving animals. From the time I was five, she was bringing home creatures small enough to go undetected in our Brooklyn apartment: turtles, tortoises, and a half-moon parrot with whom I bonded so deeply that the memories of having to give him up (I had severe allergies) still fly at me like unwelcome shards of glass. I remember crying in the back seat of the car, my father double-parked with the engine running while my mother returned the bird to the pet shop. When she came back outside, she was holding a large tortoise, waving it at us, a permission seeking gesture for my father, who banged his hand on the steering wheel and yelled, "Goddamn it, Rhoda!" But we won. The tortoise came home with us. The parrot story goes deeper than simple loss of an amusing companion (which is never simple, anyway). At the time, I was five and silently enduring molestation at the hands of my paternal grandfather. I won't delve into the psych