I am meeting more and more young adults these days telling me they feel called to be “prophets” in this time of Earth crisis.  If we say with Ornstein that “art as meditation is the way of the prophets,” then art as meditation will prove to be a very valuable process for nurturing the prophet in us.  But the obvious question arises: What is a prophet? 

The term “prophet” is a very, very rich concept from the Jewish tradition.  It has been vulgarized and distorted by people who think it’s about fortune telling or foretelling the future.  It is not.  It is about bringing about a future worth living. It is about standing up to injustice and about speaking truth to power. Today we all need to be prophets (or spiritual warriors which is a parallel term).

Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel marches arm-in-arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Selma-Montgomery March. (Wikipedia)

Rabbi Heschel wrote a classical study on The Prophets back in 1962.  Refusing to hide comfortably in academia, he practiced what he preached and entered into the Civil Rights protests of his days, alienating many of his own Jewish community for doing so.  He literally walked his talk.  Or, as his daughter reported his saying on returning from marching with King and others at Selma, “I felt my feet were praying.”

Rabbi Heschel says that the primary work of the prophet is to interfere.  He also assures us that there lies in the “recesses of every human being a prophet.” This is important information for it democratizes the calling of being a prophet.  We are all prophets to the extent that we work out of our depths or true self or “recesses” to combat injustice.

A new image suspected to be by the elusive street artist Banksy appears in London at the end of the climate protests. Maeve Campbell | © Living It by Euronews

Art as meditation assists our journey into our recesses for all birthing comes from a deep place in us, a place of the “true self.”  For Heschel, the prophet’s images “must not shine, they must burn.”  Prophetic words are designed “to shock rather than to edify.”[1]

bell hooks, in an article on black postmodernism, proposed that the “next revolution will be a revolution in aesthetics.”  That would seem to have something to do with art as meditation, with awakening our senses to beauty and its opposite, ugliness.  Multiple species on our planet going extinct is ugly; working to save them is a thing of beauty.  Injustice is ugly; Justice is beautiful and in every way sustainable.

Adapted from: Matthew Fox, “Deep Ecumenism, Ecojustice, and Art as Meditation” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 232
[1] Abraham Heschel, The Prophets (NY: Harper & Row, 1962), 7.
Banner Image: “I Am a Voice” photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande, on Unsplash

Art As Meditation

Sit with prophetic images that have touched you deeply whether in poetry or music or dance or actions or Scriptures or mystical writings: Let them burn in you.  Feel the burning deeply.

Paint a picture.  Be with the burning of the colors and the shapes and the images, letting them speak to you and awaken your perceptions.

Recommended Reading

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages in substantive discussions with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets on today’s social and spiritual issues on such challenging topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interspirituality, and more.

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2 thoughts on “What Is a Prophet?”

  1. Avatar

    Daily Meditation is a wonderful daily reminder of gratitude— why we’re here on the planet earth and what we need to do as its good citizens, I am so glad Matt Fox is sharing his wisdom and the wisdom of the prophets so freely to us. Thank you and I am in gratitude to Matt and all the wise ones.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Sophea,
      Thank you for sharing your gratitude for these meditations and the good life that they inspire us to live. These words from Matthew are a gift to release our own prophetic souls. i will pass on your gratitude on Dr. Fox.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the DM Team

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