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Monday, June 14, 2010

Real Life Story: Muslim's dream of Jesus and the Phantom Prophet Soldiers of the Second Intifada

I love meeting people from different cultures and religious backgrounds.
It's great to actually sit and listen to people's stories without trying to override them with your own opinions or beliefs.
But at times we hear stories that may not correlate with our own religious dogma, or perhaps the propaganda of our own faith system. These stories force us to realise that God meets people where they are at.
Take my new friend who we will call M.
M is a Lebanese Muslim. His life has not been easy and his body bears the scars of bullet holes and knife wounds. He has grown up with violence that most of us will never experience. But M has a heart of gold and loves all people regardless of race or religion. He is not a deeply religious man, but we have coffee every week and the subject of religion comes up often - as do real life supernatural events.
It was over our last couple of meetings that he told me many Muslims, including himself, have dreams about Jesus Christ. When we think of Islam, we often think of their Prophet Mohammed, but do not realise that Jesus is considered to them a great prophet and the end of times judge of all people..

I was startled that M had dreams that Jesus walked across water to him, and thanked him for helping people in the community. The same week I heard that story, my friend Mark who was in the article I wrote on premonitions (See story on Do premonitions save lives: Spearfishing champion and Great White Shark in our blog) gave me a dvd which is full of testimonies of Muslims who are having similar dreams of Jesus revealing himself to them in many ways, including announcing to them that He is the son of God and saviour. These two events lined up in a way that more than coincidental as only a week earlier, a Maronite Lebanese Christian told me about the same dvd Mark gave me, explaining he would love to give me a copy but there were none available and it could not be purchased online. Mark was unaware of that conversation when he delivered me that exact DVD hours after I had spoken to M.
And this next part of the story is where you have to start to shift your paradigms, especially if you are one of many Christians who believe that God cares more about Christians and Jews than other people, a thinking that is dangerously prevalent today. M began to share with me something very unexpected.
'In the second Intifada in 2005, many people do not know that covert Israeli forces moved into parts of lower Lebanon, and there was terror among many townships. Much of this never makes it into world news. But they were driven out of one town by men on horseback with swords and did not return'.
I was listening but did not pick up the context. 'Did the men of that town have no access to weapons like rifles'?
"No" M said, 'the Israeli bullets went through the men on horseback. They were Prophets from the past, who were assigned by God to protect the people. The bullets passed through them. They were seen by whole villages and the Israeli army could not defeat them and when they realised they were not fighting flesh and blood they retreated in terror'.
So I researched the story to see if it was an urban myth, and also did a comparison to the WW1 story "The Angels of Mons' in which it was reported an angelic army drove the German army away. The story of the Angels of Mons is reputed to be a hoax (see the excerpt from Wikipedia below).
Here's what I found re the Lebanon story. 
Zip. Nothing to affirm or deny it. Perhaps it is because the stories are in blogs in Arabic using religious or cultural terminology that I am unaware of. Perhaps because it is a small group of people who are aware of the tale. Perhaps because it is a legend, a type of mythology to bolster hopes that God cares enough about the Lebanese people that He would provide supernatural protection for them, as He did for the forefathers of the Israeli's when they were known simply as the Hebrew descendants of the twelve tribes of Jacob, who had just escaped from Pharoahs Egyptian empire. Perhaps, because God cares about the poor, the refugree's, the powerless, the orphan, the widow, the oppressed regardless of what their religious bent is.
So if you are a better investigator than me and you probably are, see what you can find on this subject and let us know the result.
In the meantime, in a little village in the Southern Lebanon, they are sharing stories about dreams of Jesus and the sword wielding prophets who saved them from further bloodshed in the ongoing battle between Israel and it's neighbours.
I'll leave you on this note - God cares about the little guy, regardless of race, colour or religion -  have a look at how many times justice is mentioned in the Bible - Pastor Baz.

Re: The Angels of Mons. (Taken directly from wikipedia)
The Angels of Mons is a popular legend about a group of angels who supposedly protected members of the British army in the Battle of Mons at the outset ofWorld War I. The story is fictitious, developed through a combination of a patriotic short story by Arthur Machenrumoursmass hysteria and urban legend, claimed visions [citation needed] after the battle and also possibly deliberately seeded propaganda.


On 22-23 August 1914, the first major engagement of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War occurred at the Battle of Mons. Advancing Germanforces were thrown back by heavily outnumbered British troops, who also suffering casualties and being outflanked were forced into rapid retreat the next day. The retreat and the battle were rapidly perceived by the British public as being a key moment in the war. Despite the censorship going on in Britain at the time, this battle was the first indication the British public had that defeating Germany would not be as easy as some had thought. Considering the numbers of German forces that were involved in the battle, the British ability to hold them off for as long as they did seemed remarkable and recruitment to the army shot up in the weeks that followed.

 Arthur Machen and "The Bowmen"

On 29 September 1914, Welsh author Arthur Machen published a short story entitled “The Bowmen” in the London newspaper The Evening News, inspired by accounts that he had read of the fighting at Mons and an idea he had had soon after the battle.
Machen, who had already written a number of factual articles on the conflict for the paper, set his story at the time of the retreat from the Battle of Mons in August 1914. The story described phantom bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt summoned by a soldier calling on Saint George, destroying a German host.[1]Machen's story was not however labelled as fiction and the same edition of the Evening News ran a story by a different author under the heading "Our Short Story." Additionally, Machen's story was written from a first hand perspective and was a kind of false document, a technique Machen knew well. The unintended result was that Machen had a number of requests to provide evidence for his sources for the story soon after its publication, from readers who thought it was true, to which he responded that it was completely imaginary, as he had no desire to create a hoax.
A month or two afterwards, Machen received requests from the editors of parish magazines to reprint the story, which were granted. A priest, the editor of one of these magazines, subsequently wrote to Machen asking if he would allow the story to be reprinted in pamphlet form, and would he write a short preface giving authorities for the story. Machen replied that they were welcome to reprint but he could not give any authorities for the story since he had none. The priest replied that Machen must be mistaken, that the "facts" of the story must be true, and that Machen had just elaborated on a true account. As Machen later said:
It seemed that my light fiction had been accepted by the congregation of this particular church as the solidest of facts; and it was then that it began to dawn on me that if I had failed in the art of letters, I had succeeded, unwittingly, in the art of deceit. This happened, I should think, some time in April, and the snowball of rumour that was then set rolling has been rolling ever since, growing bigger and bigger, till it is now swollen to a monstrous size.
—Arthur Machen, Preface to The Bowmen[1]
Around that time variants of the story began to appear, told as authentic histories, including a variant which told how dead German soldiers had been found on the battlefield with arrow wounds.
In "The Bowmen" Machen's soldier saw "a long line of shapes, with a shining about them." A Mr. A.P. Sinnett, writing in the Occult Review stated that "those who could see said they saw 'a row of shining beings' between the two armies." This led Machen to suggest that the bowmen of his story had become the Angels of Mons.[1]

The Angels

On 24 April 1915, an account was published in the British Spiritualist magazine telling of visions of a supernatural force that miraculously intervened to help the British at the decisive moment of the battle.[2] This rapidly resulted in a flurry of similar accounts and the spread of wild rumours. Descriptions of this force varied from it being medieval longbow men alongside Saint George, to a strange luminous cloud, though eventually the most popular version came to beangelic warriors. Similar tales of such battlefield visions occurred in medieval and ancient warfare. Atrocity reports like the Rape of Belgium and that of the Crucified Soldier paved the way for a belief that God would intervene directly against such an evil enemy. However there are strong similarities between many of these accounts of visions and Machen's story published six months earlier.
In May 1915, a full blown controversy was erupting, with the angels being used of proof of the action of divine providence on the side of the Allies in sermonsacross Britain, and then spreading into newspaper reports published widely across the world. Machen, bemused by all this, attempted to end the rumours by republishing the story in August in book form, with a long preface stating the rumours were false and originated in his story. It became a bestseller, and resulted in a vast series of other publications claiming to provide evidence of the Angels' existence.[1] Machen tried to set the record straight, but any attempt to lessen the impact of such an inspiring story was seen as bordering on treason by some. These new publications included popular songs and artists' renderings of the angels. There were more reports of angels and apparitions from the front including Joan of Arc.
Kevin McClure's study describes two types of stories circulating, some more clearly based on Machen, others with different details.[3] In a time of intense media interest all these reports allegedly confirming sightings of supernatural activity were second-hand and some of them were hoaxes created by soldiers who were not even at Mons. A careful investigation by the Society for Psychical Research in 1915 said of the firsthand testimony, “we have received none at all, and of testimony at second-hand we have none that would justify us in assuming the occurrence of any supernormal phenomenon.” The SPR went on to say the stories relating to battlefield “visions” which circulated during the spring and summer of 1915, “prove on investigation to be founded on mere rumour, and cannot be traced to any authoritative source.”[2] Given that the Society for Psychical Research believed in the existence of supernatural forces, the conclusions of this report are highly significant.
The sudden spread of the rumours in the spring of 1915 six months after the events and Machen's story was published is also puzzling. The stories published then often attribute their sources to anonymous British officers. The latest and most detailed examination of the Mons story by David Clarke suggests these men may have been part of a covert attempt by military intelligence to spread morale-boosting propaganda and disinformation. As it was a time of allied problems with the Lusitania sinking, Zeppelin attacks and failure to achieve a breakthrough on the Western Front the timing would make military sense. Some of the stories conveniently claimed that sources could not be revealed for security reasons.[4]
The only real evidence of visions from actual named serving soldiers provided during the debate stated that they saw visions of phantom cavalrymen, not angels or bowmen, and this occurred during the retreat rather than at the Battle itself. Furthermore these visions did not intervene to attack or deter German forces, a crucial element in Machen's story and in the later tales of Angels. Since during the retreat many troops were exhausted and had not slept properly for days such visions may have been hallucinations.[2]
According to the conclusion of the most detailed study of the event it seems then that Machen's story provided the genesis for the vast majority of tales of Angels at the time. The stories of angels themselves certainly boosted morale on the home front as popular enthusiasm was dying down in 1915 and demonstrate the importance of religion in wartime.[4] They also serve as testimony to the rapid spread of rumour and myth during wartime via the media and bear comparison to the modern craze for UFO sightings. Machen's role, though not deliberate, can be compared to Orson Welles' part in the The War of the Worlds radio hoax.

Post War developments

After the war the story continued to be frequently repeated but no evidence to support the claim that the Angels existed was ever given by those who were there. The best evidence provided was in Brigadier-General John Charteris' memoirs At G.H.Q., published in 1931, which said the story of the Angels of Mons was a popular rumour amongst the troops in September 1914, this was the earliest any account said the rumour was in circulation. However it appears from examination of his original letters he wrote those entries after the war and falsified the dates.[5] Given his association with pieces of allied propaganda like the story of the “German Corpse-Rendering Works” (Kadaververwertungsanstalt) this might indicate Charteris had been behind an attempt to use the Angels for propaganda purposes.
Machen was associated with the story for the rest of his life and grew sick of the connection, as he regarded “The Bowmen” as a poor piece of work. He made little money from the story then or later.[citation needed]
The sudden revival of interest in appearances of angels from the 1980s onwards, especially in the United States, not only amongst Christians, but those interested in the New Age, has caused uncritical accounts of the story of the angels who saved the British army to be regularly published in books and magazines. Similarly, the story is also often used by sceptics as a good example of how believers in the supernatural can become convinced of fantastic things by slender evidence.[6] References to the story can be found in World War One set novels and films like FairyTale: A True StoryThe Friends of Arthur Machenfrequently publish articles on developments in the case.

The William Doidge Hoax

In 2001, an article in The Sunday Times claimed that a diary, film and photographic evidence proving the existence of the Angels of Mons from a WWI soldier named William Doidge had been found. The article discussed a long involved story in which Doidge was involved with an American GI and an angel seen years later in Woodchester Mansion. It was claimed Marlon Brando and Tony Kaye were going to spend £350,000 to buy the evidence to make a film. Other papers like Variety and the Los Angeles Times and television programmes soon followed up the story and a website connected to the mystery became very popular. The footage was supposedly found in a trunk in an antique shop by Danny Sullivan in Monmouth, close to Machen's birthplace of Caerleon. In 2002 in a BBC Radio documentary The Making of an Urban Myth Sullivan admitted the story was a complete hoax to drum up interest in Woodchester Mansion; the footage and soldier never existed.[7]

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