Book of Revelation

by John the Apostle
Start Free Trial

Does the Book of Revelation have instructions for parapsychic control?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Modern spiritualism is a product of the nineteenth century, a period during which earlier religious and mythical elements were given a pseudo-scientific transformation as "psychic powers." This hybrid of science and religion is not supported by any scientific evidence but it did give rise to a wide range of modern cults and superstitions, such as beliefs in extra-sensory perception and other so-called psychic powers.

Book of Revelations, also know as the Revelation to John, or the Apocalypse, is the last book of the New Testament. It was written at the end of the first century AD, long before the advent of modern spiritualism and does not have any information about modern conceptions of psychic powers. It is a deeply religious text, figured as a set of revelations of the future, including the end of the world and second coming of Christ, given to apostle John.

It is a complex and symbolical work, filled with allegorical and esoteric imagery. There is a rich commentary tradition among theologians and in popular culture concerning the work, with some commentators seeing it as a literal set of predictions and using it to predict the "end times" and others viewing it as a deeply symbolic and spiritual text rather than as a literal description. Because it is such a complex work, it has given rise to a cottage industry of colorful interpretations.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Before answering this question, it is important to clarify the terminology. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, parapsychology is "the study of mental abilities, such as knowing the future or telepathy, that seem to go against or be outside the known laws of nature and science." The adjective "parapsychic" is not found in the Cambridge Dictionary, but the Collins Dictionary defines it as "of or relating to actions of the mind for which there are no scientific explanations." The magazine Psychology Today provides a more specific list of what would fall under the definition of parapsychology: "extrasensory perception (ESP), precognition (perceiving the future), telepathy (communicating mind-to-mind), and telekinesis (manipulating objects with the power of the mind)."

Although there is some dissension about this, most Bible scholars presume that the Book of Revelation is written by John the Apostle, one of the original twelve followers of Jesus. He is mentioned by name several times in the text. He composed it while he was in exile on the isle of Patmos, which is a small island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. This is specified in the text in chapter 1, verse 9. The purpose of writing the book is given in chapter 1, verse 1. (When I quote the Book of Revelation directly, I am using the translation known as the New International Version, which is easier to understand than earlier translations into English.)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it know by sending his angel to his servant John....

We see here that the Book of Revelation is a prophetic book. Its purpose is to inform Christians of future events ("things which must soon take place"). With this in mind, we might say that John is practicing precognition, or the perception of the future. Apart from some letters that John composes to contemporary churches, the rest of the book is comprised of visions that foretell future events.

Scholars differ in their interpretation of these prophetic visions. Some say that they do not stand for specific future occurrences but are generally symbolic of the Christian victory of good over evil. Others say that from our perspective, the prophecies have all been fulfilled by specific past events. Still others say that the majority of the prophecies have not come to pass but refer to future events at the end of time. Regardless of which scholars are correct, it is clear that John did not have control over the visions he saw. In chapter 1, he describes hearing a voice and seeing a vision of a shining man who tells him exactly what to write. Verse 19 says,

Write therefore what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

We see, then, that although John's prophecies can be called parapsychic in that they involve precognition, or foretelling of the future, there are no instructions for controlling this. Instead, he is a passive spectator who writes down what he sees as he is instructed to by Jesus Christ and angelic messengers.

John does give instructions (as he is directed to by the angel) in the letters to the churches in chapters 2 and 3. However, these instructions do not have anything to do with parapsychic control. Instead, they tell Christians to avoid wicked men, persevere in the faith, endure persecution, avoid false idols, strengthen themselves by remembering Christ's teachings, and avoid the lure of worldly riches.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team