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Sunday April 28th 2019Tim Candler9

 

    In the 17th Century a man called Thomas Browne wrote a book called "Religion of a Doctor." The book was a more personal, self-examining to the point of self analyzing type of book wherein Thomas Browne far too honestly explored his relationship with science and religion, an uncharacteristic confession that was too private for those days. The book was greeted warmly by the more scientific minded but it was a little on the radical side for the more religious minded and soon enough it went on the list of books banned by the Pope. Thomas Browne was a physician, and one of his contributions to the English Language was the word Hallucination which he took from the Latin word for 'wandering in the mind.' Not a dream, but something that happens when you're awake. And ever so easy to suggest that there's no actual difference between a Vision and an Hallucination. Strictly speaking when it comes to understanding ideas whether something is sourced through a spiritual vision or an hallucination shouldn't really matter. But for some reason it does. During the early days of Muslim expansion, if conquered people were people of the book, which initially included Jews and Christians,  they were under the early Muslim Sharia law to be granted protected status, they could keep their property and religion. None protected groups were considered fair game for theft, looting and so on. In time the list of protected people grew to include Hindus, it was practical politics by a well disciplined invading force as much as anything. And worth keeping in mind that the early Muslims in their faith had a definite definition of pagan, they were people who worshiped animal Gods and/or multiple Gods. The early religions of Arabia were polytheistic.

 

Past

       Expanding into the mysterious lands of Persia Muslim invaders discovered there were three schools of Zoroaster. All three schools claimed that Zoroaster was a prophet but the trouble was centuries previously, they claimed, Alexander the Great had burned all their sacred books so there was no real concrete way to prove that Zoroaster was a recognizable prophet of the one God of sufficient importance to grant Zoroastrians protected status. Under questioning by the often acquisitive and much less numerous, invading forces, the representative of only one of the schools of Zoroaster in Persia was able to persuade the inquisitor that they deserved protection. And to demonstrate that Zoroaster was a prophet this Zoroastrian representative is purported to have quoted Zoroaster:  "They ask you as to how should they recognize a prophet and believe him to be true in what he says; tell them what he knows the others do not, and he shall tell you even what lies hidden in your nature; he shall be able to tell you whatever you ask him and he shall perform such things which others cannot perform."  No mention of miracles or God and not easy to make immediate sense of a translation from a 12th Century Arab historian writing about an event that occurred several centuries earlier. But if you take the first sentence as the question and the second two as the answer, I get the sense that you recognize a prophet by the confidence of his insight into your confusions, and a prophet can go on to confidently explain things in a way that you can understand, and he can do this in a way that others can't. So in a sense it's us who decide who a prophet might be, a "he who has ears to hear , let him hear" type thing, otherwise he or she might just as well wander lonely as a cloud in the wilderness. Inevitably I could well be wrong. I'm told, a Canadian named Osler, who's been called the father of modern medicine, had read Thomas Browne's far too honest book so many times he knew it by heart.

 

 

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