Search Results for “Prophecy”

September 17, 2012

Self-defeating Prophecy

Year 2000 problem

A self-defeating prophecy is the complementary opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy: a prediction that prevents what it predicts from happening. This is also known as the ‘prophet’s dilemma.’ A self-defeating prophecy can be the result of rebellion to the prediction.

If the audience of a prediction has an interest in seeing it falsified, and its fulfillment depends on their actions or inaction, their actions upon hearing it will make the prediction less plausible. If a prediction is made with this outcome specifically in mind, it is commonly referred to as reverse psychology. Also, when working to make a premonition come true, one can inadvertently change the circumstances so much that the prophecy cannot come true.

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February 28, 2012

When Prophecy Fails

the seekers

When Prophecy Fails is a 1956 classic book in social psychology by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter about a UFO religion that believes the end of the world is at hand. Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance (holding conflicting thoughts or feelings at the same time causes distress) can account for the psychological consequences of disconfirmed expectations.

Festinger and his associates read an interesting item in their local newspaper headlined ‘Prophecy from planet Clarion call to city: flee that flood.’ A housewife given the name ‘Marian Keech’ (real name Dorothy Martin, later known as Sister Thedra), had mysteriously been given messages in her house in the form of ‘automatic writing’ from alien beings. These messages revealed that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954.

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February 2, 2012

The Celestine Prophecy


The Celestine Prophecy is a 1993 novel by James Redfield that discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas which are rooted in many ancient Eastern Traditions and New Age spirituality. The main character of the novel undertakes a journey to find and understand a series of nine spiritual insights on an ancient manuscript in Peru. The book is a first-person narrative of the narrator’s spiritual awakening as he goes through a transitional period of his life and begins to notice instances of synchronicity, which is the realization that coincidences may have deep meaning. Redfield has acknowledged that the work of Dr. Eric Berne, the developer of Transactional Analysis, and his 1964 bestseller ‘Games People Play’ as a major influence on his work. Specifically, the ‘games’ which Berne refers in his theories are tools used in an individual’s quest for energetic independence.

The novel has received some criticism, mostly from the literary community, who point out that the plot of the story is not well developed and serves only as a delivery tool for the author’s ideas about spirituality. Redfield has admitted that, even though he considers the book to be a novel, his intention was to write a story in the shape of a parable, a story meant to illustrate a point or teach a lesson. Critics point to Redfield’s heavy usage of subjective validation (a cognitive bias by which a person will consider a piece of information to be correct if it has any personal significance to them) and reification (making something real). Another point of criticism has been directed at the book’s attempt to explain important questions about life and human existence in an overly simplified fashion.

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November 12, 2020

Speaking in Tongues

Agnes Ozman

Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is a practice in which people utter words or speech-like sounds that some believe to be languages unknown to the speaker.

One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice in which some believe it to be a divine language unknown to the speaker. Glossolalia is practiced in Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity as well as in other religions.

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August 29, 2019



QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory detailing a supposed secret plot by an alleged ‘deep state’ against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters. The theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard 4chan by someone using the name Q, a presumably American individual that may have later grown to include multiple people, claiming to have access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States.

Q has falsely accused numerous liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking officials of engaging in an international child sex trafficking ring, and has claimed that Donald Trump feigned collusion with Russians in order to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the ring and preventing a coup d’état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros.

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September 23, 2018

Belief Perseverance

Belief perseverance (also known as ‘conceptual conservatism’) is maintaining a belief despite new information that firmly contradicts it. Such beliefs may even be strengthened when others attempt to present evidence debunking them, a phenomenon known as the ‘backfire effect.’ For example, journalist Cari Romm, in a 2014 article in ‘The Atlantic,’ describes a study in which people concerned about the side effects of flu shots became less willing to receive them after being told that the vaccination was entirely safe.

Since rationality involves conceptual flexibility, belief perseverance is consistent with the view that human beings act at times in an irrational manner. Philosopher F.C.S. Schiller holds that belief perseverance ‘deserves to rank among the fundamental ‘laws’ of nature.’

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March 12, 2018


Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab

Precognition (Latin: ‘acquiring knowledge’), also called ‘prescience,’ ‘future vision,’ or ‘future sight’ is an alleged psychic ability to see events in the future.

As with other forms of extrasensory perception (ESP), there is no reliable scientific evidence that precognition is a real ability possessed by anyone and it is widely considered to be pseudoscience. Specifically, precognition appears to violate the principle that an effect cannot occur before its cause.

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March 4, 2016

Affective Forecasting

stumbling on happiness

hedonic treadmill

Affective forecasting (also known as the ‘hedonic forecasting mechanism’) is the prediction of one’s affect (emotional state) in the future. As a process that influences preferences, decisions, and behavior, affective forecasting is studied by both psychologists and economists, with broad applications.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman and business school professor Jackie Snell began research on hedonic forecasts in the early 1990s, examining its impact on decision making. The term ‘affective forecasting’ was later coined by psychologists Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert. Early research focused solely on measuring emotional forecasts, while subsequent studies examined accuracy, revealing that people are surprisingly poor judges of their future emotional states. For example, in predicting how events like winning the lottery might affect their happiness, people are likely to overestimate future positive feelings, ignoring the numerous other factors that might contribute to their emotional state outside of the single lottery event.

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November 16, 2015

Great Disappointment

everything dies by box brown

The Great Disappointment was the reaction that followed Baptist preacher William Miller’s proclamations that Jesus Christ would return to the earth in 1844. Many Millerites had given away all of their possessions and were left bereft when the prophecy proved false. Despite this, the movement wasn’t entirely disbanded, and eventually developed into several other denominations of Christianity, notably the Seventh Day Adventists.

The event is viewed by some scholars as indicative of ‘cognitive dissonance’ (discomfort from holding conflicting views) and ‘true-believer syndrome’ (maintaining a belief in the face of evidence to the contrary). The theory was proposed by social psychologist Leon Festinger to describe the formation of new beliefs and increased proselytizing in order to reduce the tension, or dissonance, that results from failed prophecies. His theory was that believers experienced emotional strain following the failure of Jesus’ reappearance in 1844, which led to a variety of new explanations, some of which outlived the disappointment.

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April 10, 2015


monkeys paw by matt verges

In terms of fiction, a quibble [kwib-uhl] is a plot device, used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Typically quibbles are used in legal bargains and, in fantasy, magically enforced ones. In one of the best known examples, William Shakespeare used a quibble in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Portia saves Antonio in a court of law by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood.

A ‘pact with the Devil’ commonly contains clauses that allow the devil to quibble over what he grants, and equally commonly, the maker of the pact finds a quibble to escape the bargain. In Norse mythology, Loki, having bet his head with Brokk and lost, forbids Brokk to take any part of his neck, saying he had not bet it; Brokk is able only to sew his lips shut.

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March 24, 2015



Postdiction [pohst-dik-shuhn], also known as retroactive clairvoyance, is an effect of hindsight bias (the tendency to perceive events that have already occurred as having been more predictable than they actually were) that explains claimed predictions of significant events, such as plane crashes and natural disasters. In religious contexts it is frequently referred to by the Latin term ‘vaticinium ex eventu,’ or ‘foretelling after the event.’

Through this term, skeptics postulate that many biblical prophecies (and similar prophecies in other religions) appearing to have come true may have been written after the events supposedly predicted, or that their text or interpretation may have been modified after the event to fit the facts as they occurred.

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December 13, 2014

Fortune Cookie

fortune cookies

A fortune cookie is a folded wafer cookie with a piece of paper inside with words of wisdom, an aphorism, or a vague prophecy. The message may also include a Chinese phrase with translation or a list of lucky numbers used by some in lotteries (some of which have become actual winning numbers). Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and some other countries, but are absent in China.

The exact origin of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century, basing their recipe on a traditional Japanese cracker. Fortune cookies have been summarized as being ‘introduced by the Japanese, popularized by the Chinese, but ultimately … consumed by Americans.’ In 1992, Wonton Food of Brooklyn, NY attempted to expand its fortune cookie business into China, but gave up because the product was considered ‘too American.’

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