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vocation

vo·ca·tion / vōˈkāshən/ • n. a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation: not all of us have a vocation to be nurses or doctors. ∎  a person's employment or main occupation, esp. regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication: her vocation as a poet. ∎  a trade or profession.

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vocation

vocation XV. — (O)F. vocation or L. vocātiō, -ōn-, f. vocāre call.
So vocative (gram.) XV. — (O)F. vocatif or L. vocātīvus.

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vocation

vocationashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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Vocation

VOCATION

VOCATION is a divine call or election, of a revelatory character, addressed to religiously gifted or charismatic personalities. It forms the first phase of their initiation into an often unwillingly accepted intermediary function between human society and the sacred world. Unlike functionaries with a special, well-defined religious task in a given group or culture (such as priests or even heads of families and elderly men, who bring offerings and give religious instruction), vocation is often felt by persons outside or on the fringe of the established institutions, whose charismatic and often abnormal psychic character makes them appear as prophets, founders or reformers of religion, saints, or shamans. Those called, therefore, often make their appearance in periods of social turmoil or crisis. Sometimes they start a new religious movement that implies a break with the past, or else they exorcise illness, famine, or drought, which destabilize personal or social health.

Vocation is experienced as divine revelation through various media (voices, visions, and dreams, exceptional accidents, severe illness, absentmindedness or insanity, and attacks of epilepsy), and it is sometimes accompanied by special cosmic phenomena such as a solar eclipse, an earthquake, or lightning. It usually provides the persons "called," often after initial resistance and unwillingness, with special knowledge and missionary zeal for the rest of their lives.

A true prophet was the Iranian Zarathushtra (Zoroaster), who probably lived at the beginning of the first millennium bce and was called by his god, Ahura Mazda, to preach the coming of his reign. Zarathushtra's prophecy is characterized by an intimate personal relationship with his god and a highly moral and intellectual tone. It was Zarathushtra "who first thought the good, spoke the good and did the good, the first revealer" (Yashts 13.88). Although of a wealthy aristocratic family, his vocation brought him into poverty, permanent conflict with the established priesthood, and even exile.

Further important material is provided by the reports on the vocation of the prophets of Israel and other chosen persons, as told by themselves or contained in the historical books of the Hebrew Bible. The prophet Isaiah tells about his vocation which took place in a vision in which he heard the voice of the Lord:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim, and one cried to another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall we send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me. (Is. 6:18)

Seeing visions, hearing voices, and being filled with a divine spirit are the most frequent media through which the prophets of Israel received their vocation to preach the word and will of their God, whose appearance often has ecstatic character. Their activities are sometimes accompanied by miracles, as in the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kgs. 18), where Elijah brings down the fire of the Lord from heaven and performs the role of rainmaker, bringing a period of serious drought to its end. Like most of the other prophets of Israel, Elijah was in strong opposition to the religious establishment and practices of his time.

In the New Testament, Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan, during which he saw the heavens open, the Spirit descending like a dove upon him, and a voice from heaven saying: "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mk. 1:911 and parallels), is a traditional vocation with the fixed elements of a vision, the Spirit, and a voice immediately followed by the temptation in the wilderness, which forms Jesus' initiation into his public role, again in opposition to the Jewish establishment of his days. The persecutor Saul became the apostle Paul through a vocation consisting of a vision of heavenly light, a voice calling to him, and a temporary blindness. After three days he was cured and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9). The vocation initiates a process of rebirth, making Saul into the second founder of Christianity.

Mani (b. 216 ce), the founder of Manichaeism, received his first vocation at the age of twelve when an angel appeared to him like "a flash of lightning," ordering him to leave the community in which he was reared. The angel was sent by the King of Light and in Manichaean sources is called the Twin or the Paraclete. It was a kind of heavenly double that guarded him during his youth, showed him many "visions and sights" and appeared again to him "in great glory" when he was twenty-four years old. The Twin revealed to him all the mysteries of the world: "what my body is, in what way I have come, who my Father on high is, the boundless heights and the unfathomable depths." The spirit sends Mani, who is very hesitant about his vocation, out into the world to proclaim his saving message, promising him: "You, then, expound all that I have given to you. I shall be your ally and protector at all times." Here again the first vocation is followed by a period of mental preparation in close relationship with the spirit, who functions as a guarding spirit and eventually brings about the revelation of perfect divine knowledge.

Muammad, the prophet of Islam, obtained his vocation (in 609 or 610 ce when he was about forty years old) after a long period of mental crisis and growing unhappiness with religious practice in his birthplace, Mecca; as a result, there ensued serious conflicts with the local tribal establishment and his eventual departure (Hijrah) for Medina in 622 ce. The Qurʾān contains some scanty allusions to the Prophet's vocation, which took place in a nocturnal vision, perhaps at Jerusalem, in which he saw Allāh or the angel Gabriel, who gave him the essence of the Qurʾanic message (sūrahs 17:1, 53:118, 81:1926). Muammad was so confused that he believed himself mad. Later Islamic tradition developed this theme into the legend of Muammad's nightly ascension to heaven and descent with the heavenly Qurʾān.

The history of Christianity and its various offspring shows a wide variety of vocations of saints, reformers, and prophets. Joan of Arc (14121431) received a vocation as a little girl in a garden. She heard a loud voice and saw a brilliant light and the archangel Michael escorted by a legion of angels. Michael the Archangel announced the arrival of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, who urged her to help the French king and save France, a task she accepted after long hesitation.

Most nativistic cults and messianic movements that are the result of an acculturation conflict are initiated by the vocation of a prophetic leader, involving a remarkable amalgam of elements from the old and the new religion. Such is the case in the Shaker religion in the northwestern United States and in the Ghost Dance movement among the North American Indians. The second wave of the Ghost Dance was initiated by the Indian laborer Wovoka in 1890. During a solar eclipse he had an attack of fever and heard his fellow tribesmen make a loud noise to drive away the monster that devoured the sun. Then he had the following vision:

When the sun died, I went up to heaven and saw God and all the people who had died a long time ago. God told me to come back and tell my people they must be good and love one another and not fight, or steal or lie. He gave me this dance to give to my people.

Other less peaceful messianic movements also began with the vocation of a prophet. W. W. Harris of Cape Palmas in Liberia was jailed in 1912 because his preaching was suspected of inciting rebellion against the Liberian government. In a nocturnal vision the angel Gabriel appeared to Harris and called him to become the prophet of Africa; thus began his very successful missionary travels along the west coast of Africa, which lasted for two years.

Also well-known is the vocation of the shaman, which forms the first phase of a long and difficult initiation into this ecstatic religious function that mediates between the world of the spirits and the world of men. Shamanism occurs all over the world, but principally in northern and Inner Asia and in North America. The vocation of the future shaman manifests itself in a significant change of behavior, in mental illness, hallucinations, epileptic attacks, strange accidents or ordeals, in all of which the activities of the guardian spirit are experienced. A shaman of the Yakuts in Siberia told how he became ill at the age of twenty, saw visions and heard strange voices, and struggled with the spirit for nine years. In the end he almost died; finally he began to be a shaman, and his illness was cured. The vocation of the shaman is in almost all cases associated with an initiatory sickness that brings him to the threshold of death, often resulting in a complete disintegration of his personality, which is then reintegrated in the initiation. It is a process of death and rebirth. The future shaman sometimes sees in dreams or visions his head chopped off, his body reduced to a dismembered skeleton or boiled in a kettle, symbols belonging to archaic cultural patterns in which the myth of life out of death is predominant. The powerful symbolism of the shamanic vocation as the initiatory phase of a process of rebirth is the most profound expression of the meaning of every vocation: being called and reborn into a new condition of life in order to minister to and save fragile human lives with the help of the divine world to which the vocation gives entrance.

Bibliography

A comprehensive study of the various forms of vocation is still lacking. William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York, 1902) remains basic for the correct understanding of the psychology of the divine call. For the phenomenon of the Hebrew prophets and related persons, see Erich Fascher's Prophetes: Eine sprach- und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (Giessen, 1927) and Johannes Lindblom's Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia, 1962). Arthur Darby Nock offers an excellent introduction to the early Christian and Hellenistic world in Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford, 1933). For vocation in messianic movements, see Peter Worsley's The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of "Cargo" Cults in Melanesia (London, 1957); Bengt M. Sundkler's Bantu Prophets in South Africa, 2d rev. ed. (London, 1961); Wilson D. Wallis's Messiahs: Their Role in Civilization (Washington, D.C., 1943), a general work; and I. M. Lewis's Ecstatic Religion (Harmondsworth, 1971). For the various forms of shamanistic vocation, Mircea Eliade's Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, rev. & enl. ed. (New York, 1964), is fundamental. Eliade's Birth and Rebirth: The Religious Meaning of Initiation in Human Culture (London, 1958) is a good introduction in the complex field of vocation and initiation.

New Sources

Harper-Bill, Christopher. Christian Religious Beliefs and Ecclesiastical Careers in Late Medieval England. Studies in the History of Modern Religion. Rochester, N.Y., 1991.

Harran, Marilyn. "The Contemporary Applicability of Lutheran Pedagogy; Education and Vocation." Concordia Jounral 16 (1990): 319332.

Mahon, Brain J. Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition. New York, 2002.

Schwehn, Mark. Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America. New York, 1993.

Han J. W. Drijvers (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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