Norman O. Brown

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Norman Oliver Brown (1913 – 2002) was an American scholar, writer, and social philosopher.


"The Prophetic Tradition" (1982)[edit]

Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 21, No. 3 (1982), pp. 367-38, also in Apocalypse and/or Metamorphosis (1992), pp. 46-68.
  • Prophecy is a critical response to the "urban revolution," that irreversible commitment of the human race to the city and civilization which spread outward from the "Nile to Oxus" heartland beginning around 3000 B.C. Prophecy is the perception of the potentialities, both for "good" and for "evil," inherent in the new social structure. The urban complex makes a process of world unification in one sense—commercial, technological—inevitable, and makes world unification in another sense—the peaceable Kingdom—ever more problematical. The whole prophetic tradition is an attempt to give direction to the social structure precipitated by the urban revolution; to resolve its inherent contradictions; to put an end to the injustice, inequality, anomie, the state of war ... that has been its history from start to finish.
    • p. 367
  • In the prophetic tradition, properly understood, Islam must be perceived as a legitimate dialectical response to the failure of orthodox Christianity. Protestants should be able to see that the need for a Protestant Reformation was there already in the 7th century C.E., to be perceived by prophetic eyes. ... New light is coming from ... a profounder appreciation of Judeo-Christian heresy, the alternatives eliminated by that triumph of orthodoxy which Hegel regards, as he regards all world-historical triumphs, as the triumph of God. Victrix causa deis placuit.
    • p. 368
    • The Latin phrase "The victorious cause pleased the gods" is from Lucan.
  • Islam is to be envisaged as dialectical evolution, or evolutionary mutation, in the prophetic tradition, in response to the limitations built into the structure of orthodox Christianity by its historic compromise with Roman imperialism; by its commitment to scriptural canon, creedal orthodoxy and episcopal hierarchy; and by its consequent scandalous history of schism and persecution (duly noted in the Koran).
    • p. 371

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