Many people have heard the saying "history repeats itself." And many people have pronounced variations on it.
In my mind I think of time, and prophecy, as similar to fractals. If you don't know what a fractal is, I encourage you to do a bit more reading outside this article (Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, PBS). I am not going to give a thorough explanation of what fractals are. However, in general fractals are sets of numbers. Not all fractals look alike. And like images of the planets, moons, our sun, and more, they are often given colors which make it easier to distinguish various characteristics, but those colors do not actually exist in our narrow visual spectrum; you may have heard this referred to as "false colors."
Variations on a Theme in Pictures
Probably the easiest way for me to show what I am talking about is with pictures. To bring up another saying people use, "a picture is worth a thousand words." (I would add, tongue-in-cheek, that if one uses too many thousands of words, you're in danger of loosing your audience's concentration and going beyond their attention span. :-) So this article won't be too long.)
As I mentioned above, fractals are sets of numbers. I am going to show "the Mandelbrot set" but there are also other famous sets, like the Julia set. Above is a thumbnail of the Mandelbrot set. Below are larger screen shots using a program to I found online. Why did I choose the Mandelbrot set? I'm not really sure besides the fact it's pretty famous, but maybe it subconsciously reminded me of a guitar body! :-)
One pattern you will see that's intrinsic to fractals are repeating patterns. Of course this is the whole point of this essay, that time and (God's) prophecies are like fractals. I hope these graphics will help you see this concept. You can see my theory of how God can see the entire span of human history, but also know the specifics of how history will unfold.
The Mandelbrot Set Overview
This first graphic, according to my theory and concept, is representative of how God can see the entire course of events. Please notice that there is a general overall shape, and that the shape is even mirrored top and bottom. If you look closely you can also see there are protrusions around the circumference of the inner black area that seem similar; this is where the concept of history repeating itself comes in.
Overview of the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Zooming in to the Madelbrot Set Fractal
Below are step-by-step zooms in to the Mandelbrot set fractal. I hope it's clear that each successive screen snap shot is a closer look at the details of the first Mandelbrot set overview. (At the end of this article I will post a link to the software I used to generate these views, so you too can play with it.)
Please notice the black protrusion on the top. Notice how it resembles the black hole in the first screen shot? Also if you look closely you can see on the left and right are smaller black protrusions that are very similar to the main black hole and the one in the center of the shot below.
Zoom 1 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Below, as we zoom in even closer to the "top" black protrusion you can see that it too has a number of black protrusions on it that resemble it, as well as the main one in the overview shot.
As a side note, I am using the phrase "black protrusion" to point out what you see in these screen shots. As I noted in the introduction these are "false color" images, the colors are assigned by software and not intrinsic in fractals themselves. Fractal software often gives you the option to change the color palette to your liking. Perhaps you've even seen screen savers that cycle the colors in a psychedelic manner, thus showing that specific colors are not found in fractals, but can be assigned relative places based on taste. So please do not assume that all fractals have a black part, it could just as well be white.
Zoom 2 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Let's zoom in some more on the top-most black protrusion and we can see it has it has its own set of "children" on it, which resemble it, as well as the whole fractal.
Zoom 3 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Zoom 4 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Zoom 5 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Zoom 6 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Zoom 7 in to the Mandelbrot set fractal.
Above is the last screen shot I'll include. I am not sure why it's pixelated. If memory serves, fractals contain infinite resolution, and each zoom should recalculate the view to a decent resolution, but for some reason Xaos kind of pooped out at this level of zoom. Oh well. I hope you've understood, and seen, my main point. This pixelation issue may just be with my lack of fully exploring the Xaos program and its features.
In the Bible
So I hope you enjoyed that visual trip down fractal lane. A photo journey can spark a lot more neurons than my trying to describe the above with a lot of words. Ok, so I've shown you a few examples of how fractals contain repetitions of themselves as children which are a part of themselves, or to put it another way, how fractals repeat themselves, or put another way, how fractals contain variations on a theme. So maybe you are now wondering where you can find examples in the Bible to support my notion that fractals are a visual metaphor for history.
There are a number of passages in the Bible that imply humanity is merely repeating what has already happened, and even implying it's happened before the physical world was created. This is a hard teaching for many, since it implies there is a "destiny" we are tracking, or bound to. Some people would also interpret this to mean humans have no free will. But please don't misunderstand me, I am not trying to convince you one way or another about that, I am perfectly happy to let you make up your own mind about it. :-)
For the time being I will not track down every passage I've come across, I'd rather just inspire you to pick up the Bible and read it for yourself, but here are some references you can search for yourself.
It's written God told a prophet that before the prophet was born, God knew him, and set him apart to be a prophet.
Solomon, seemingly in the depths of despair, wrote Ecclesiastes. In that book, he pines "there is nothing new under the sun." And "what is, is what has already been." And "what's to come has already been." In essence he's saying history repeats itself.
It's written Jesus said God set him apart as his own, and that Abraham and various prophets saw Jesus' day and were glad, even though these prophets were born and died hundreds of years before Jesus was born. The implication here is, metaphorically speaking, God "lifted" them from the edges of the fractal, their current place in time, and showed them God's overall perspective.
A letter is credited to Paul, as written to the Ephesians [Ephesians 1:4], that believers were chosen by God "before the foundation of the world."
Depending on how familiar you are with the Bible and with various prophecies, you may know that prophecies cycle. They happen more than once, or they are partially fulfilled at one time, to be completed at a later point in time. You can find more about this in the Bible itself, as well as in other articles. Jesus points this out after coming down from a mountain with some disciples, read Mark 9:11-13.
In Revelation 17 there is a curious passage about a beast that "once was, now is not, but is going to..."
What I AM NOT Saying
I am NOT saying people don't have free will. What's the proof of this? The first, and easiest, answer is that you are free to believe me or not! :-)
I am NOT saying that there is no possibility for change.
I am NOT saying humanity must be slaves to repeat past mistakes.
What I AM Saying
On a personal scale, intra-societal, and inter-societal scales, patterns have emerged, showing that certain behaviors and events tend to happen over and over.
I AM saying you have opportunities to prevent past mistakes. How? By taking responsibility, not giving in to temptations, and making a serious mental effort to overcome your weaknesses. (Please note I am saying your weaknesses and not others' weaknesses. Yeshua/Jesus is quite critical of people who ignore their own shortcomings, but harp on others' shortcomings. Read Luke 6:41-42.)
I AM implying individuals have much more in common with each other than many care to admit. I also believe this is true on a societal scale.
Clearly, many aspects of humanity have been repeated over time. Even apart from the Bible, many people have noted this on a scale of time spanning thousands of years, as well as shorter time periods. And many people would agree they have noticed patterns repeating in their own lives, whether good or bad.
The good news is we have free will to unshackle ourselves from past bad behaviors. It's not always easy, and can often be a bitter pill to swallow, but take heart in this saying found in Luke 15:7, (paraphrased) "there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who continue to do good, and don't need to repent."
Even though there are clear aberrations, and people love to squash all of humanity on a one-dimensional number line from "left" to "right" and act like there are earth shattering differences between them, I believe human beings have more in common with each other than many care to admit.
This even carries over to similarities between human beings and other forms of life. Science has shown that differences between individual's DNA is incredibly minute. And, in fact, there is also remarkably little difference between human DNA and many other animal's DNA. However, I am not saying that just because individual's share 99.99999% of their DNA, that 99.99999% of our behaviors and beliefs are the same, clearly they're not, but my advice is it's often better to look for similarities and gently probe differences, rather than going for the throat and try to force others' "bad behavior" to be like your "good" behavior.
Xaos software is available for what is arguably the best operating system on our planet: OS X. But it also appears to be available for other OSs too. See the Xaos site.
PBS produced a show about fractals. http://www.PBS.org/wgbh/nova/fractals/set.html In typical PBS style, it's not too shallow, not too deep, very approachable and with great graphics. You can also watch it online. At their web site you can also design your own fractal.
Another perspective on fractals and religion can be found at Prophecy in the News. Many months ago I wrote them and encouraged them to investigate fractals as they relate to prophecy having a number of fulfillments and history repeating itself. Maybe my email sparked their article, maybe not, but like Jesus says, "If I glorify myself, it means nothing," [John 8:54] so that's not my point. However, their article didn't quite cover the issues I wanted to share above, so after reading their article, I finally took the time to type matters from my own hands, and write what I believe God shared with me. :-)
I hope you liked it and learned from it.
In case you reached this page through some other means than my home page, please let me encourage you to visit it, and I hope you find my songs enjoyable. You may also wish to subscribe to my podcast, there's more information on the podcast page. You are also invited to pray for me. Thank you.