In premodern society, prophets appeared both informally
as gifted individuals with a sudden prophetic insight or as functionaries
identical with what Western scholars in the nineteenth
and twentieth century called witchdoctors, priests or shaman.
For an example of the prophetseerjudge functionary, see the
biblical book of I Samuel which traces the history of the last
judge to rule the Hebrew tribe. Samuel was, as a child, dedicated
to God and placed in the care of Eli, the corrupt judgeseer
of Israel. His career includes a number of clairvoyant and prophetic
(precognitive) utterances, but the most illustrative of his
daily functions is pictured in I Sam. 9 in which Samuel helps
locate the lost donkeys of the future king Saul.
In many instances prophetic utterances were made in what
appeared to be a normal state (see the references to prophecy
in the biblical book of Acts) but often occurred in an altered or
ecstatic state of consciousness (see the opening verse of the
book of Ezekiel, or the sixth chapter of Isaiah). In general the
Hebrew prophets went through a period in which ‘‘the word of
the Lord’’ spoke to them and then they in turn went among the
populace and spoke what they had been told. We know that the
pythonesses attached to the oracles of ancient Greece uttered
prophetic words under the influences of natural gases or drugs,
and when the magical practitioners in tribal cultures attempt
to peer into the future they often attain a condition of ecstasy
by taking some drug, the action of which is well known to them.
But this was not always the case; the shaman often summoned
a spirit to his aid to discover what portents and truths lie in the
Most often divination is not prophecy in the true sense of
the term, as artificial aids are employed. Those aids can stimulate
the psychic attunement, but most of the time appear merely
as a pretended prediction of future events by the chance appearance
of certain objects that the augur supposedly
understands. We often find prophecy disassociated from the
ecstatic condition, as among the priests of the Maya Indians of
Central America, known as Chilan Balam, who, at stated intervals
in the year, made certain statements regarding the period
which lay immediately before them.
Prophecy may be regarded as a direct utterance of the deity,
taking a human being as mouthpiece, or the statement of one
who seeks inspiration from the fountain of wisdom. In the biblical
writings, Yahweh desired to communicate with human beings
and chose certain persons as mouthpieces. Again individuals
(often the same as those chosen by God) applied to the deity
for inspiration in critical moments. Prophecy then may be the
utterances of the deity(ies) through the instrument of an entranced
shaman or seer, or the inspired utterance of a seer who
later repeats what has been learned while in an altered state
(hearing the word of the Lord).
In ancient Assyria the prophetic class were called nabu,
meaning ‘‘to call’’ or ‘‘announce’’—a name probably adopted
from that of the god Na-bi-u, the speaker or proclaimer of destiny,
the tablets of which he inscribed.
Among the ancient Hebrews the prophet was called nabhia,
a borrowed title probably adopted from the Canaanites. They
differed little in function from similar functionaries in the surroundings
cultures, but differed greatly in the particular deity
to which they were attached. Prophets were important functionaries
in the ancient Near East. Four hundred prophets of
Baal reportedly sat at Queen Jezebel’s table (I Kings 1819).
The fact that they were prophets of this deity would almost go
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Prophecy
to prove that they were also priests. We find that the most celebrated
prophets of Israel belonged to the northern portion of
that country, which was more subject to the influence of the Canaanites.
Association of prophets appeared in Israel quite early (see
I Sam. 105) and records of such appear periodically through
Israel’s history. In the era after the death of Ahab and Jezebel
they appear to have had some formal organization (see II Kings
2) with chapters in various towns (II Kings 2–5). They served
to consolidate Elijah’s victories over the prophets of the hated
deity Baal. They seem to have died out by the time of the exile.
The general idea in Hebrew Palestine was that Yahweh, or
God, was in the closest possible touch with the prophets, and
that he would do nothing without revealing it to them. While
often ignored or persecuted during their lifetime, their preserved
written words were later given greatest veneration and
still later canonized.
In ancient Greece, the prophetic class were generally found
attached to the oracles and in Rome were represented by the
augurs. In Egypt, the priests of Ra at Memphis acted as prophets
as, perhaps, did those of Hekt. Among the ancient Celts and
Teutons prophecy was frequent, the prophetic agent usually
placing him or herself in the ecstatic condition. The Druids
were famous practitioners of the prophetic art, and some hint
of their utterances may be still extant in the so-called ‘‘Prophecies
of Merlin.’’
In America, as has been stated, prophetic utterance took
practically the same forms as in Europe and Asia. Captain Jonathan
Carver, an early traveler in North America, cited a peculiar
instance where the seers of a certain tribe stated that a famine
would be ended by assistance being sent from another tribe
at a certain hour on the following day. At the very moment
mentioned by them, a canoe rounded a headland, bringing
news of relief.
A story was told in the Atlantic Monthly many years ago by a
traveler among the Plains tribes, who stated that an Indian
medicine-man had prophesied the coming of himself and his
companions to his tribe two days before their arrival among
In recent years, channeling and contactees contributed
more to American prophecy than any other sources. Hundreds
of channeling books have been published in the past few decades,
but the majority contain unspecified prophetic content.
More often than not, the predictions are about millennial earth
changes and a new era of spiritual transformation and peace.
Prophetic channeling by Edgar Cayce, Kryon and Elizabeth
Clare Prophet are considered the most prominent. More traditional
psychic seers such as Jeanne Dixon, Ruth Montgomery,
Gordon Scallion, Dannion Brinkley and Lori Toye are in the
forefront due to the lack of more particulars from channeled
sources. Today, mass market prophecy paperbacks are just a
number of hodge-podge collections of bits and pieces from
Cayce, Nostradamus, Native American lore, etc. Much analysis
on prophecy is rare, but works by John White and Tom Kay are
considered noteworthy in their field.
Alschuler, Alfred S. ‘‘When prophecy succeeds Planetary visions
near death and collective psychokinesis.’’ Journal of the
American Society for Psychical Research 90 no. 4 (October 1996).
Ascension, Soul Ways and Its Meaning. http
www.spiritweb.orgSpiritascension.html. April 10, 2000.
Cannon, Dolores. Conversations with Nostradamus, vol 1.
Huntsville Ozark Mountain Publishing, 1997.
Cayce, Hugh Lynn. Earth Changes Update. Virginia Beach
ARE Press, 1980.
Center for Millennial Studies. April
10, 2000.
Ellis, Keith. Prediction and Prophecy. London Wayland, 1973.
Garrison, Omar V. Encyclopedia of Prophecy. New York Citadel,
Geertz, Armin W. The Invention of Prophecy Continuity and
meaning in Hopi Indian religion. Berkeley University of California
Press, 1994.
Kirkwood, Annie. Mary’s Message to the World. Nevada City
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 1994.
Kay, Tom. When The Comet Runs. Norfolk, Va. Hampton
Roads Publishing, 1997.
Millennial Prophecy Links.
millennial.html. April 10, 2000.
The Millennium Matters. April 10,
Morgana’s Observatory.
morgana. April 10, 2000.
Montgomery, Ruth. The World To Come. New York Random
House, Harmony Books, 1999.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. Saint Germain on Prophecy II. Livingston
Summit University Press, 1986.
Rowley, Harold H. Prophecy and Religion in Ancient China and
Israel. New York Harper, 1956.
Shellhorn, G. Cope. Surviving Catastrophic Earth Changes.
Madison Horus House, 1994.
Stanford, Ray. Fatima Prophecy, New York Random House,
Ballantine Books, 1990.
Timms, Moira. Prophecies and Predictions Everyone’s Guide to
the Coming Changes. Santa Cruz, Calif. Unity Press, 1981.
Vaughan, Alan. Patterns of Prophecy. New York Hawthorn
Books, 1973. Reprint, London Turnstone, 1974.
White, John. Pole Shift. Virginia Beach ARE Press, 1980.