When the prophecy plays false!

Mario Di Fiorino

When the prophecy plays false!

From If the world does not end. When the prophecy plays false!
Copyright 1996 Psichiatria e Territorio

English traslation 1998

Lazzaretti Publisher

"Often the prophecy is the main cause of the event prophesied."

Thomas Hobbes Behemoth.

Prophecy as a rule profoundly influences events.

So Rosenthal formulated in psychology, with his "prophecy that self-materializes" (1966).

Thus, for example, within the family, a negative attitude can "predict" a child's existential failure.

In "Voodoo Death", the physiologist, Cannon, has left us descriptions of cases of unexpected death after cursing or taboo violation (1942).
The Austrian psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl, has recounted how a fellow-prisoner let himself die after the failed prophecy in a dream of his release (1977).

But what does the prophecy bring to future happenings when the prediction is the end of the world?

The suggestive power of the prophecy works above all within the movement provoked by the prophet.

Interest is concentrated on events subsequent to the failure of the prophecy (Festinger).

The fearful awaiting of the year 1000, a widespread panic among mediaeval society, is a legend, blown up and fed by the Romantics, often with anticatholic overtones.

The believer meditated with trepidation St John's Revelation (Apocalypse) with its announcement of the end of the world:

"And I saw an Angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season."

Revelation 20,1-3.

In the past, millenarism moods appeared principally in heretical movements.

With secularization, there came a splitting. On the one hand, expectations were transferred to utopian-promised earthly paradises and to modern ideologies, while, on the other hand, the end of the world was evoked by apocalyptic ecological writings about a world already hopelessly polluted and imminent nuclear disaster.

This "fall", the degradation of the "myth" of the end of the world, has not diminished the force of its updating capacity.

In these years between now and the turn of the millenium, one could well suppose increased millenaristic pronouncements on the part of the prophets, to do with unstable reference schemes and the over-turning of the modernity myths.

This book examines some prohecies of the coming of the end of the world, in particular, the figures of the "prophets", who have caused and still today do cause controversy. Prophets and impostors, charlatans and fools have, with various success, fascinated and troubled multitudes.

Different reading keys have been proposed for unravelling the intricacies of expectations, suggestions, reasons and callings.

The Oratorian priest, Polverini, wrote about the "Prophet of Amiata": "No-one has penetrated the mystery of David."

One hundred years after, the President of the Assize Court of Cosenza, Judge Carmelo Copani seemed to re-echo him during his investigations into the murder within the "Rosary Prayer Group": "Which psychiatrist or psychologist, which judge will ever be able to understand - fully - Lidia Naccarato?" was the judgment, which appeared if anything to favour the spiritualistic nature of Lidia's messages.

The fact that the end-of-the-world prophecy remained unfulfilled caused dramatic happenings on Mount Amiata. David Lazzaretti was forced by his followers to face and challenge, as if in an ordeal, the carabinieri who barred the way.

In the case of the "Rosary Prayer Group", Uncle Antonio's return, awaited by more than a thousand faithful, was prevented by the betrayal of a dedicated follower. With this explanation, the leader of the sect can offer a different sacrificial victim.

In the third case, David S., after the unintentional killing of an old sacristan, remained caught up in the psychiatric paradigm. His prophecies, rich in dramatic and miraculous events, even if made at least on one occasion on television, found little response.

As Lombroso had observed, after the epilogue of the case of David Lazzaretti, with his removal to the Judiciary Hospital (at that time the criminal asylum) it would not have had such tragic consequences (1).

The prophetic message lost some of its power to fascinate.


(1) "We shall now enumerate the fruits brought to the country by such meanness in the reports and the delay in building the criminal asylums, which, if they had existed, would have resolved every government doubt as to where to remove in time the hallucinated prophet and some of his more fanatic apostles" (Nocito & Lombroso, 1889).

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