Friday, November 26, 2010

Transcending the Shackles of Skepticism

"Impossible things are happening every day."
~ Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

I realize updates to this fledgling blog have been far too few and far between, but now that my whirlwind Fall conference schedule has settled down, I intend to shift that in the weeks and months to come. And I will soon give everyone a glimpse into just what I have been presenting at recent conferences in Los Angeles, Portland and San Diego.

I have to say that it has been particularly gratifying that the attentive conference audiences so far claim to have heard very little about Mother Shipton prior to my seminars, if anything at all. This just motivates me to get more information out online as quickly as possible, and yes, I will continue my speaking schedule too.

I am particularly looking forward to presenting at the Los Angeles Conscious Life Expo in February, where many of the top prophecy researchers and spiritual authors in the world present keynotes and panels every year. No, I'm not doing a keynote or panel (not this year anyway ;-), but having the opportunity to speak (a good time slot too - 7 PM Friday, Feb. 11) is like being Cinderella at the Ball. I guess I'll just thank my "Fairy Godmother" Shipton as my inspirational muse. And I can only begin to imagine the "glass slippers" I may scatter about, ready to be discovered by the "royalty" in attendance.

Visit for a continually updated 2011 event schedule, including details on the Los Angeles event, scheduled appearances at Body Mind Spirit Expos in March in Seattle and April in Portland, upcoming magazine articles, and much more to come...

And now I would like to address the topic of this blog entry, a topic that has already come up at my presentations to date ~ Transcending the Shackles of Skepticism.

I think it could be quite successfully argued that few historical prophetic figures have been impacted more by skepticism than Mother Shipton, to the point of confident declarations that she never existed at all.

I must admit that I was quite surprised to pick up Sharan Newman's popular new book The Real History of the End of the World (2010) just to discover a preface in which the author states Mother Shipton was "invented by a journalist in the eighteenth century", calling the Mother Shipton phenomenon a "franchise" of concocted prophecies, then boldly stating "There never was a Mother Shipton", with no references cited or further exploration of the possibility.

If Mother Shipton was concocted in the eighteenth century, then one wonders why a nobleman named Viscount Scudamore had the following among letters written to him, this one dated Sept. 6, 1666, regarding the infamous Fire of London: "The city abandoned to the fire and thousands believing in Mother Shipton's prophecy" (as surfaced through the exhaustive research of British historian Dr. Arnold Kellett).

And when a prince watching the fire casually mentioned "Shipton’s prophecy was out" (as reported by Samual Pepsys - a historical reference cited in multiple sources, including Kellett's work), it’s clear this legendary seer’s words were common knowledge of the time, the Shipton name needing nary an introduction. Once again I must applaud Dr. Arnold Kellett for having the courage and tenacity to dig for information others have casually dismissed. And I intend to do much the same.

To be fair, however, it is true that quite a convincing case can be made for many prophecies being concocted in the name of Mother Shipton, something multiple writers have chosen to point out, including one author in particular with a very real motive to calm the populace in 1881 (the year people were panicking over a prophecy attributed to Mother Shipton regarding the end of the world). Many of the prophecies thought to be fraudulent are often dismissed so quickly that most researchers don't even bother to give them a second glance. I'm not so easily diverted.

And it is also true that unless we can travel back in time, what this likely illiterate commonwoman actually did say may never be known with certainty. Indeed it is almost impossible to prove definitively the existence of any number of historical figures or what they actually said. Mother Shipton was not a noblewoman, nor was she a scholar or prolific writer like Nostradamus. One must look at just how strong a case for her existence can be put together from the historical evidence we do have (and it is not lacking in strength).

Yet how does one actually go about proving beyond a doubt that someone of such influential impact (impact which can indeed be proven) did NOT exist at all? Where is THAT evidence? People have been dismissing Mother Shipton for centuries. Part of the problem is that it is true one particularly controversial writer, Richard Head, someone who might be considered a tabloid journalist in the 1600's, made up fantastic stories about Mother Shipton to accentuate her witch-like attributes. Many things written about Mother Shipton can certainly be cast in significant doubt, nor is it likely she said all the things many have attributed to her. But that doesn't mean one must be obliged to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Indeed it is within the mysterious landscape surrounding Mother Shipton that the true prize is to be found, and I admire Dr. Arnold Kellett for dedicating ten years of his life to search for substantial information instead of quickly succumbing to the skepticism of so many of his colleagues. There must have been some merit to his work, as he was awarded the Bramley History Prize for his efforts, as well as other formal recognitions. I don't necessarily find every one of his assumptions or conclusions to be open and shut cases, but some of them are quite compelling. His work has motivated me to dig even further in certain areas, and I actually wanted to ask him some questions, just to sadly discover he passed away last year. You can learn more about Dr. Kellett's in-depth research in his book Mother Shipton: Witch and Prophetess (2002).

Why can unhindered skepticism shackle the truth? Because it often slams the door shut on honest inquiry before inquiry even begins. How many timid discoverers have been hindered by the unabashed mockery of colleagues? Science is filled with examples of those bold enough to persevere through that skeptical smokescreen to paradigm altering truths. It really is unfortunate that the process of academic and scientific discovery (far beyond anything having to do with Mother Shipton) has so often been hampered by the outright hostility of skeptics, who don't even want certain doors to be opened. One wonders just what they are so very afraid to discover beyond those doors?

As a person who chooses to balance spirituality with science (as I actually believe they will some day be definitively proven to converge), I choose not to be shackled by the chains of skepticism. Even so, I aim to present a balanced case, one that will unflinchingly explore and discuss what many skeptics have had to say and also ask the questions perhaps they never dared to contemplate. At times, I'll play "skeptic's advocate" myself, coming up with every possible way of looking at what is in the historical record, including the skeptical point of view.

The reality of my own spirituality frees me to look at Mother Shipton in some ways historians (and so-called "rationalists") might not choose to pursue at all, just because they presume certain things about the nature of reality, presumptions that are not necessarily a given. But my firmly grounded scientific background also allows me to explore the logic of each and every conclusion skeptics have made, what references and evidence they cite, and yes, also acknowledge when they have a good point.

Stay tuned for much more to come in 2011, including audio and video excerpts from recent conference appearances, as well as a substantial boost in the content of The detail to be provided online regarding Mother Shipton will be at a depth far beyond what will appear in my upcoming book on prophetesses in general (due out later in 2011) - The Prophetess Legacy ~ Feminine Voices of the Divine. Although books have their merits, "electric avenue" is where the real game of information exchange is heading, and nothing can compete with its progressive, interactive immediacy.

The last few months have taught me that no matter how busy I become, I must not allow myself to become distracted from "electric avenue" again. Mother Shipton's mysterious voice clamors for expression here. It will not wait much longer.

~ Susan Larison Danz

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