Friday, January 12, 2007

On Precogs and Prophets

So, following on from watching Minority Report, I thought I would take a quick look at the 'meantal powers' sub-genre - that branch of science fiction which tells of Homo superior in all its forms, endowed with powers including telepathy, telekenesis and precognition.

Centuries ago anyone claiming to have such powers would have been burnt at the stake, condemned by the Church as a witch. Although demonic assistance isn't credited quite as publicly as it might have been 300 years ago, anyone claiming to be able to move an object purely by the power of his mind is generally considered to be either a bit mad or some kind of occultist (assuming that we discount stage magicians, of course).

So, are we treading on thin ice if we consider these subjects in Christian fiction? Well, apparently not; I'm currently reading Kathy Tyers' Firebird trilogy, in which the pseudo-Christian good guys are chock full of funky mental powers. Precognition, however, is seen as something of a dark art even among the Sentinels.

It might be interesting to take some of science-fiction's ideas on precognition - Can the future be changed? Is any such vision destined to become a self-fulfilling prophecy? - and mix them in with a theme of divine prophecy. Would the same rules apply to a divine prophecy? And how would anyone know what is from God and what is from a genetically-enhanced human? What if God used a genetically-enhanced human as his prophet? And so on.

In the world of the Old Testament Space Opera, meanwhile, Joseph (he of the posh jacket and the dream-readings) becomes some kind of telepath or precog; this gives those around him cause to turn on him, and him the ability to survive what might befall him when they do.

There are other super-human abilities that sf has given us too: levitation, transportation, mind-control... and that's before we dig into the world of the comic-book super-hero...


Banshee said...

Not true. You can manifest all sorts of powers, if you're, like, saintly. Witness all the saints named Wonderworker, St. Clare's clairvoyant visions, St. Thomas Aquinas' levitation, St. Martin Porres' bilocation to Japan and the Philippines from Peru, as well as his teleportation of an entire class of novices; friendship with animals; Irish saints' alleged power to curse; countless saints who had prophetic dreams or just plain prophesied....

Under early medieval Irish law, poets were forbidden to use any of the old pagan invocations of prophecy from the gods. (No lying inside a bull's hide, no putting idols on your chest during your nightly composition liedown, instead of a normal relaxing rock).

However, extemporaneously composed prophetic poems (poems made "on the finger ends") were permitted, as this was held to come from natural human knowledge instead of drawing on demons' power.

Christopher Hopper said...

Fascinating. As a Pentecostal Christian who has traveled most of the free world (and the not so free world coming spring '08 - China), I have seen (and operated in) the "spiritual gifts" as outlined in the book of Corinthians fairly prolifically.

The only reason the US Christian world would ever have a hard time receiving your space opera ad precog character (etc), is because they deny the application in our present day.

Not only should it be a part of every believer's life, but it should freely be woven into our parables...sci fi or not. I love where you are going with this...RUN!


Anonymous said...

Sounds reasonable for Joseph to be a precog, but if you're sticking closely to the OT account, they would not be hating him because of this in itself - there's no suggestion dreaming about the future was problematic - just the content of what he saw.

Of course, you might not want to stick that closely to the original.

UKSteve said...

Thanks for leaving your thoughts, Kirsty.

I did stick pretty rigidly to the 'original' in Countless as the Stars, and opinions have been mixed about whether that was good or just made it all a bit too predictable. Even I'm unsure. The currently unfinished sequel (which does not relate to Joseph) goes off at more of a tangent, while still pulling in some Old Testament stories. I guess I'll see which I prefer once that's finished before making any more decisions...