Friday, October 05, 2007

How to Know a False Prophet

Pretty Lady feels so blessed. So many of her dear friends are so concerned for her immortal soul! Every time she enters into a rousing discussion of faith, metaphysics, miracles and the Holy Spirit, some kind person is certain to warn her about False Prophets. And how correct they are to do so! False Prophets abound; one can, in fact, find them upon every street corner.

The essence of the quarrel Pretty Lady has with her friends, however, is to the mode one uses to recognize these pretenders to the Holy Word. Pretty Lady, as her intimates have cause to know, can be Irritatingly Abstract. She has a dangerous tendency to jettison simple litmus tests, such as Bible=Word Of God; Anything Else=Suspect, in favor of methods which, no doubt, appear to her friends to be Murky and Labyrinthine. So, in the hopes of putting some minds to rest (or possibly into a state of High Alert), she will outline her particular and experiential standards for determining whether an apparent miracle-worker is all she cracks herself up to be.

1) A False Prophet will appeal to the Ego.

Pretty Lady in no way means to demean the profession of street-corner psychic when she presents the following, purely hypothetical, case study. Street-corner psychics have their livings to earn like everybody else does, and like other professionals, their skills are obtained by a combination of Talent, Study and Drive. The practice of street-corner divination is not, in and of itself, more inherently destructive than the practice of law. It is all in how the talent is applied.

However, Pretty Lady picks this particular hypothetical case study in order to underscore the fact that mere pyrotechnics of divination, transpersonal perspicacity, and metaphysical understanding in no way indicate that a person's motives are genuinely transcendent.

For Pretty Lady has met many a street-corner psychic whose powers of clairvoyance are undoubtedly genuine. These persons spout off reams of Actual Facts, for which they could have no direct physical source of knowledge, with the ease and rapidity of a person falling off a log. They put their fingers squarely upon each specific psychological button necessary to bring their client into a state of thrall, and nearly to the verge of tears.

Then they matter-of-factly declared that they can solve everything, for the bargain-basement price of $200 plus tax.

Before encountering this gigantic Red Flag, however, there are usually subtler signs that a person is using a flamboyant psychic talent for motives baser than that of Universal Peace. Flattery need not be insincere to be manipulative; it need merely be divisive. A person who declares, 'Wow! You're really wonderful!' may be perfectly fine. A person who declares, 'Wow! You're So Superior to those other people over there! You deserve your due!' bears watching.

2) A False Prophet will prey upon your fears.

In Pretty Lady's experience, a cardinal mark of the Holy Spirit is the simple message, verbal or otherwise: Have No Fear. Telling one's flock, 'There are tons of things to be afraid of out there, but I will save you!' is not at all the same thing.

So when this purely hypothetical street psychic explains that there is a Mark upon you, a dark one, of someone else's jealousy, envy, dislike or competitive sabotage, and that there is an Urgent Need for you to Defend Yourself against this darkness, be very, very wary.

(Pretty Lady notes that, in the abstract, an appeal to the Ego is, in effect, an appeal to fear. For the Ego is the manifestation of the divided Self, at war with everything around it. Fear is the Ego's source of sustenance. You cannot have one without the other.)

3) A False Prophet will have a Hidden Agenda.

Or not so hidden; see above. Pretty Lady has heard tell of psychics who charged upwards of $900 for removal of the Dark Mark. Anyone who has an obvious vested interest in extorting money, status, recognition or sexual favors out of buttering you up and cosseting your fears is likely to be wholly Wallowing in Ego.

4) A False Prophet will tell lies.

Friends, it is time we came to understand the difference between a Lie, a Parable, and a Metaphor. A Lie is a deliberate falsehood, encompassing the misrepresentation of action, object, characteristic or motive, told in order to conceal an agenda. The true motive for this behavior is always to protect and aggrandize the Ego, at the ongoing expense of others.

A Parable, on the other hand, is a story told in order to make a larger point, having nothing to do with a particular Ego, per se. It may not be literally true in all its particulars, but the particulars are subservient to the overarching Message of the communication.

Similarly, a Metaphor is a metaphor. Basic English education is in a sad state of decline, when so many fail to understand this point.

5) A False Prophet will engage in Self-Martyrdom.

It is time to put a stop to this ridiculous notion that Ego-aggrandizement is wholly signified by worldly elevation of self. It may be just as thoroughly indicated by worldly debasement of self. A person who slashes her own wrists, metaphorically speaking, on your behalf and then declares, 'See? I bleed!' is engaging in a manipulative tactic every bit as destructive as those who stampede over other people's farmland, pillaging as they go.

True prophets have, frequently, been publically, dramatically and unjustly brutalized. But they tend not to whine about it, and they tend not to blackmail you with it. They also tend not to do it to themselves on purpose.

By these standards, evidently, it is a wonder that there are any True Prophets at all. In Pretty Lady's view, however, the wonder and the paradox of it is that the Holy Spirit may speak through any of us at any time, not being pinioned, by definition, to Ego. So how may one recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit?

So simple, darlings. The Holy Spirit is calm, disinterested, and loving.

(Disinterested: having no personal stake in the situation; impartial. Pretty Lady is royally fed up with hearing this term misused.)

It has been Pretty Lady's experience that the voice of the Holy Spirit can be astonishingly simple and literal; so literal that we often miss it. A dear and holy friend of Pretty Lady's once prayed to Jesus Christ for some guidance regarding her place of employment; she was becoming weary and bored, and uncertain of why she should continue there. She asked, very specifically, "Tell me why I'm here."

At work that day, a co-worker walked up to Pretty Lady's friend and declared, apropos of nothing, "I'm the reason you're here. I'm a mess, I've got a lot to work on, and you're really helping me."

Four hours later, Pretty Lady's friend realized--well, duh.


Anonymous said...

False Prophets abound; one can, in fact, find them upon every street corner.

Beware of false prophets. Come to the Truth. Follow Joel Osteen.

[sarcasm off]

k said...

Cool. People need to THINK about this stuff, and too often, they sooooo just don't want to.

Given55 said...

Got it on the nose. We can't just swallow everything that is given to us.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! The truly holy folks do not know they are holy - and could care less about what others think of them. They just ARE. Without trying. No carrot reward to motivate them. No stick needed to force them into doing the right thing(s). Peace and contentment are the halmarks of the Spirit.

LXV said...

Well, kudos to you for presenting a worthy topic. I have no particular argument with any points you make.'s the delivery that raises this post to the level of genius. Enthralling, hilarious, brilliant. I have always enjoyed your prose. Welcome back PL. I realize how busy you are with other concerns these days. But don't abandon us in the desert out here. You have an adoring audience.