I have always enjoyed ferreting out and discovering the connections between seemingly unconnected subjects – Science and Religion being two of those – hence the existence of this blog. In this I am not alone. The scientific community has spent years and untold millions of research dollars trying to find a solution to the conundrum that is the apparent incompatibility between General Relativity and Quantum Physics. Both are experimentally provable yet according to the best minds in the fields they are apparently mutually exclusive of each other. The attempt to reconcile the two is what gave rise to String theory which has given rise to M theory which still has bugs to be worked out. It is the immutable faith of theoretical physicists that there must be a common theory to satisfy and unify the two disciplines that moves this research forward.
I have found it challenging but ultimately rewarding to see if there were any common ground to be found between contemporary scientific thought and the body of scripture contained in the Bible, the Koran and other scriptural writings as they are brought forth. On a much less clear but perhaps more interesting subject I would invite you to consider – on this occasion – any possible connection between Prophecy and Science fiction. I know this sounds like a stretch but upon further examination I think you will find that the two are much more closely aligned than is first apparent.
It is a fact that through the more recent centuries up through the 19th century the Bible was often the first and primary source of written word available to most common folks. The Koran and the Torah could also be included in this generalization for people of those faiths. The simple fact is that most people of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries had few, if any, books. However, almost everybody had a family bible and it was to these pages that mothers and fathers turned to teach their children to read – or to practice the reading they were learning in schools. Between the Bible and Shakespeare (for the more erudite) our lexicon grew with rich abundance in sayings, expressions and colloquialisms (Jumping Jehoshaphat, Heaven help us, holy Moses, Saints be praised, to name a few of the Biblically inspired ones). Similarly, Tales of the Apocalypse and the four horsemen, the seven seals of heaven and the specter of Armageddon etched indelible images in our brains such that early Sci/Fi writers drew upon these common threats for inspiration. Of course the scriptures weren’t the only source of inspiration. The rapid advancement of scientific understanding after the renaissance also contributed. Mary Shelly, a young poet, was enraptured by the speculation and after dinner conversations of her husband and others about the most recent discoveries of Luigi Galvani and his experiments with electricity on frog legs and the potential this held for re-vivification of dead bodies. She went straight away to work and gave us the enduring classic tales of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.
Armageddon and the apocalypse have inspired countless tales of life in the future. Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” tells the tale of a headless horseman who terrorized poor hapless Ichabod Craine. In the current TV hit “Sleepy Hollow” the direct connection is made of this horseman and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. So, it is with this in mind that I would like to take a few minutes of your time and discuss this subject in more detail.
Prophecy and science fiction are not that far apart from the get go. Both are forward looking – that is, both have a way of turning from future to current conditions. Science fiction becomes rather quickly science fact and prophecy is fulfilled to become part of the historical record. Just for clarification, we are not talking about the monsters and space aliens here (although they could certainly be out there). I wish to look more to the likes of Jules Verne, H.G. Welles, George Orwell and others who most often were simply trying to look forward and predict (sometimes with remarkable accuracy) the future. In more recent times it was a science fiction writer – Arthur C. Clarke who first postulated and wrote about the concept of geo-synchronous orbit, an idea which has most successfully jumped from science fiction to science fact. He also was the author of the wonderful movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Even more recently we all have enjoyed our favorite episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” in all its various iterations both on television and in movies (with more yet to come). It is remarkable how many of the futuristic ideas expressed on those early episodes have already come to pass, one example being CDs, DVDs, and flash drives – all presented years before the internet existed and before personal computers became ubiquitous.
Many years ago I wrote a screen play for MGM which sadly never made it to the screen but which is now a much better novel called “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative” (available on Kindle and Nook). In it I had to tell the tale of a civilization that was separated from our own more than 2300 years ago. Because of their separation they avoided the disaster that we call the ‘Dark Ages” a period of a thousand years in which NO meaningful progress of any sort was made. The people of Zebulon, however, continued to progress at a normal rate thus arriving at the state we are at now many centuries before us. For the screenplay, then called “My Brother’s Keeper” (not very original I know but it was a working title) I had to think up and present a number of futuristic things. Eventually the story was shelved for a number of years and only in the last four or five years revived once again. This time, however, when I revisited the story I found that most of the ‘futuristic’ things I had presented were no longer fiction but rather reality. It was satisfying and gratifying on one level but frustrating on another because I had to now come up with a whole new set of forward looking predictions and technologies.
Interestingly, “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative” is a science fiction story inspired by biblical prophecy and history. It is predicated on a supposed account of a people presented to us in the Bible as the ‘Lost Ten Tribes” (The old Lorne Greene TV series “Battlestar Galactica” was similarly so inspired). As a kid I was intrigued by the subject of the lost ten tribes and I spent many hours in speculation as to what their current condition might be. As I read other associated prophecies about them and the prophesied destiny of them and their brethren who remained behind I began to develop the story that is contained in the novel today. This was for me a fascinating union of science fiction (which I love) and prophecy which has always captivated me.
I began to think of other prophetic utterances and it soon dawned on me that since prophecy was usually an observation of future events, it might be reasonable to expect that the prophets who uttered them might not have the lexicon to adequately describe them. Hence Ezekiel’s “Wheel within a wheel” (Ezekiel chapter 1 and chapter 10:10) might have been the only way he had to describe whatever it was that he saw (I leave that to your imagination). In much the same way that the Native Americans described the first railroad trains as ‘Iron Horses’ so too many of the things we read in prophecy might not be nearly so “out there” as they first seem.
When thinking about the book of the Revelations of John (known in most other languages as the ‘Apocalypse’ of John) we should grant him significant leeway in his narrative. How else would someone in John’s position describe the sound of a jet engine or the rumble of a locomotive but as the ‘roaring of a lion’? When scriptures say something to the effect that “he shall utter his voice and the whole world shall hear it” we are at first skeptical, knowing that no one can speak so loudly as to be heard all around the world. On the other hand, if the events in the Middle East begin to unfold in any way like the biblical accounts suggest, who would deny that the events will not be covered 24/7 by CNN, BBC, Reuters, Fox, Al Jazeerah and RT to name just a few. Today the technology is all around us to not only stay informed to events around the world but to watch them live as they unfold. Indeed, it is not only possible for someone to speak and have the whole world hear it but it happens day after day, every day.
Consider this prophecy of John as found in the 9th chapter of Revelations, verse 9-10: “…And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle… and they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men…” Now the imagery might seem fantastical and I can’t say with certainty just exactly what John saw but the first thing I thought of was an Apache or a Cobra helicopter. If you were John and you saw one of these machines in the sky and saw what it could do how would you describe it without using any of the words created today to describe it? Regardless, the imagery he provided certainly conveys the terror and mayhem one of these machines can impose. Verse 14 of the same chapter even mentions the great river Euphrates and then in verse 16 says that the number of soldiers was “…two hundred thousand thousand…”. Now, for the record, the Euphrates is the main river of Iraq and two hundred thousand thousand is two hundred million. That’s much larger than any army so far assembled but the Iraqi Army was touted to be three million strong. We might allow for a little literary license or even some translational errors before we dismiss the account out of hand.
I could go on but I think the point is made that just as science fiction has a way of becoming science fact, so too prophecy has a way of being fulfilled, the difference being only that prophecy, at least the prophecies we are most familiar with, were uttered many more centuries ago than the much more recent prophetic suppositions of H.G.Wells and Jules Verne. Consider that the next time you are tempted to scoff at either. Oh, and check out “OCULUS: the Zebulon Initiative”. You can read an excerpt at mswint.wordpress.com and you can buy your very own copy on Kindle or Nook.