Monday, October 5, 2015

Wells of Prophecy

There's something of a trick to recognizing a prophecy fulfilled. Uncle Gilbert described (in The Napoleon of Notting Hill, I believe) a joke played by the young, upon the old, at their ascending in turn to venerable age... the game of Cheat the Prophet, which consists of attending carefully to all predictions of their future, and then carefully doing nothing of the sort. And the comical opening of The Napoleon was that so many strange changes were predicted under Edward VII (or whom you will) that the only cheat available was to change practically nothing in the next generation.

But, of course, that's not the usual sense of "Prophecy". Genuine Prophecy and mere Prediction are different games, and So. The game of Cheat the Theological Prophet can be played by either tact: the simple one of doing nothing of the sort, OR the surprising one of doing exactly that, simply because it was written in a Prophecy.

For instance, between the Imperium of Augustus and that of Hadrian, there were at least two Men to arise in the province of Palestine, said to descend from David son of Jesse, said to be annointed, who raised or rose against the wrath of Rome. The later one had an abler army, but was eventually beseiged and executed with a band of loyal followers. The earlier one was abandoned by his friends and crucified about 786 AUC, and then conquered Rome about three hundred years later.

At most one was not, whether unwittingly or fully conscious, trying to Cheat the Prophets: to fit his life to those parts of the written prophecies that his contemporaries recognized and he could reasonably pull off. The trouble with things that can actually be done and are predicted is that, if they are written, anyone can then go ahead and do them. It were as if someone had published a password long ago that later on many publicly said they would use.

So, properly recognizing a prophecy fulfilled is going to be more like engaging in prophecy ourselves; because a genuine prophecy shouldn't be a published password, but more like a hash or checksum, one has to carefully compare against prophecy those events of moment and currents of mood that overtake him through life.

Which brings me to Wells. Herbert George, that is. Wells wrote in The Time Machine of vision in which it seems two species of human exist together in a strange relationship: one lives mostly below ground and keeps various important machinery working, while the other lives mostly in gardens and arcades maintained by the various important machinery — and are occasionally food for the first species. And he named these two creatures Moloch and Hevel. No... Sorry. Morlock and Eloi. actually, no, I'm not sure what Wells had in mind behind the name "Eloi"; I hope it wasn't "LHM", which is to say, a Hashem; but one can't be sure, on the internet... Let us say it again: Wells envisioned a future in which a life of vain ease is apparently supported by the cult of Death.

Now, it's more than possible H.G. thought he was writing a critique of contemporary affairs — much as Dickens criticised workhouses and the Chancery Courts and other Georgian attrocities; and some have certainly thought he was talking about class matters. That's all very well for Wells the writer, but Wells the prophet (indulge me) has something profounder in the words. Because, the surprising pattern-match is that Moloch and Hevel are, more than in Wells' time, today's demons.


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