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Is this book notable or noxious? Read my review and get the inside dope

What's Ahead?

A Musician's Prophecies of World Events
Vincent Lopez
David McKay Company
Edition / Year
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What's Ahead? A Musician's Prophecies of World Events, by Vincent Lopez

The rules for a successful oracular career are simple:-

  1. Be prolific. Make a lot of prophecies and some of them are bound to come true.
  2. Be positive. Talk up your successes and ignore your failures.
  3. Be vague. Any ambiguity in your prophecies can be used to your advantage. Especially avoid specific dates.

Books of prophecies are hostages to fortune, of course, especially if Rule 3 is broken. Once all those dates have come and gone and your predictions have failed to come true, you won't look so bright. This little book is an example of the earnest novice oracle thusly coming unstuck, and should stand as a salutary warning to all would-be prophets: keep it vague, forsooth.

Vincent Lopez was a popular band leader in the first half of the twentieth century. Unfortunately he conceived the idea that he could forecast the future, bolstered by an early success in predicting the date on which Mussolini would bring Italy into the Second World War. This led him to make other, wilder, predictions which are gathered together in this book.

Presumably because his prophecies would not actually fill many pages on their own, a large portion of the book is given over to an account of his life: written, curiously and portentously, in the third person. We learn that the young Lopez was sent to study for the priesthood, but was not suited for it and was rescued, so to speak, by music. He started to play the piano in cafes, clubs and bars and seemingly stumbled from there into becoming a bandleader. At some point he was introduced to the 'science' of numerology and related disciplines of the department of mumbo and jumbo, from which he derived his own system for forecasting the future:-

Prophetic judgment is the simple and intelligent job of applying the lessons of the past to the possibilities of the future. All scientists work away at this on the physical level, and I happen to be one of the few who are pioneering the same procedures in the larger social world of human beings, seeing what the past suggests of the future in connection with their successes and frustrations. Thus I do not take the traditional three score and ten, or seventy years of human life, nor the eighty-one which is really the individual's proper expectancy, but instead employ a cycle of eighty-four. I do this because it is a rhythm in history which is particularly accurate, and which seems to apply mainly to large bodies of people, operating to usher in rather sweeping changes. The events of the past show a transition in the affairs of the larger human groups every eighty-four years, one which approaches the proportions of a tidal wave, with social experience changing its pattern radically, and with much that man has built carried away almost overnight. Unless human institutions are on a very sure foundation indeed, giving men at large the chance to exercise their creative freedom and to know a measure of quite practical equality of opportunity, as well as to grow and expand in knowledge, the operation of events here may be very terrible.

Through this 'method', he was able to foresee that, for example, “Hitler personally will survive defeat in 1943-44, and will disappear in late 1946 or early 1947” and “Money as a business in itself will be abolished around 1948”. Lopez was a radical who believed - very optimistically - that universal social security, freedom from the need to work for a living, and total equality of the sexes would come about in the USA by the mid-fifties. He was certainly way ahead of his time in his recognition that women were far from equal in the society of 1944, but his view of the way things would change was wide of the mark, if not incomprehensible:-

The new age will have much more sex than we have, because it will be uninhibited, because people will no longer be exploited by small and selfish groups who have gathered all the power of the world to themselves, but it will be expressed in animal intimacies to a far less extent than anything we know, simply because this phase of it will become just uninteresting, in the light of a more genuine self-fulfillment.

Lopez also felt that, based on the assumption that Hitler was an Antichrist, a new Christ was due. The reincarnation of the messiah would be “recognized by everyone before the end of 1953”.

In a final burst of hubris, Lopez ended his little book with a chapter called “A Thousand Years Ahead”. Here we learn that eclipses predict events on earth - not all of them, though: just some of them - in July 1945 one such eclipse will foreshadow something bad happening in the government of the USA (he might have been right - this was the start of the McCarthy era); in 1963 there will be a giant meteor strike on Europe, causing much of France and Holland to be flooded; and there'll be lots of earthquakes, more floods, and every other sort of cataclysm. Disappointingly, the promised “thousand years” does not cover anything much after 1998, in which year - thrillingly - a new “home building scheme” is supposed to be introduced, presumably to help out all those people made homeless by floods and earthquakes.

My own prediction is that fools like Lopez will write books purporting to tell the future, other fools will buy them in the hope of enlightenment, and yet other fools like me will buy them years later in the hope of a laugh. It's a rhythm written in the stars, man.

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