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Nostradamus: The Hazy History of a Historical Foreteller

Portrait of Nostradamus by his son Cesar

Knowing the already known things can become difficult at times while there remain a number of unknown things that are yet to be known or cannot be known forever. The future is one such entity that needs to occur if need to be known, while it cannot remain unknown forever. Many believed that by knowing the past and by calculating the positions of the planets relative to earth, the unknown things that are yet to happen in the future can be known with a degree of certainty. Nonetheless, the certainty is not so profound that predicting the future has been mostly considered impossible by logical minds. Anyhow, history gives us one exception, but not without any criticisms. Nostradamus.

Michel de Nostradame, born in France during the 16th century as one among the nine children of his parents, is widely credited for the predictions of some major world events including the rise of Hitler, the atomic bomb explosions and the 9/11 attack on World Trade Center that happened in the 21st century. Despite his popularity as the most influential foreteller of all time, his history and life are still considered to be myths by many. Ironically, the history of the man who foresaw the future across centuries still remain ambiguous till date and may never be predicted with assertion.

He influenced a following in the modern days that celebrates him as an ingenious prophet whereas a few criticize his predictions as an end result of poor translation and obscurity in the language used.

While he was young he supported the theory of Copernicus and voiced against the beliefs of Catholic priests who rejected the study of astrology. What made Nostradamus famous is his book ‘The Prophecies’ (Les Propheties), which he published in different periods between 1555 and 1558. He preferred to write quatrains that consist of four lines. The edition currently available was printed after his death in 1568 and given the name ‘Centuries’ that contains 942 quatrains grouped as 9 sets of hundreds and one set of 42. When he published Les Propheties, he was seen as an agent of evil by a few but was admired as a prophet by many others. Having learnt medicine, he travelled across France and Italy and treated plague victims with an approach that deviated from the conventional ones then by recommending hygiene and low-fat diet.

Critics of Nostradamus’s prophetic legacy argue that the events were not predicted beforehand but the texts were deciphered to match the events after their occurrences only to attribute the credit to Nostradamus. Moreover, due to the printing practices followed in the olden days, no two copies of the Nostradamus’s writings can be found the same but with differences, as multiple copies were not created simultaneously from a single source. Every time, the text was printed, it took a different form and hence was prone to mistakes. Moreover, there are nearly more than 10 versions of translated ‘The Prophecies’ at present. Thus, its interpretations by his followers cannot be consistent.

Nostradamus was said to have a spiritual awakening when he returned to his hometown after fleeing in 1538 to escape a heresy charged for his remarks on a spiritual statue. Since then, he moved away from practicing medicine and started focusing in the occult meditating in front of a bowl made of brass filled with water and herbs. He is claimed to have understood the relationship between celestial bodies and world events that are dated to happen in the future. It is told that he was assisted by divine intervention when he meditated late night under the influence of mild hallucinogens that helped him see the future.

His legacy is as ambiguous as his writings, which were supposedly predictions expressed in elusive language with no references to time. Although his legacy remains controversial, he has inspired a huge following that makes him no lesser than a prophet.

Whether his ability to predict the unknown is ingenious or fabricated, he has stood the test of time in being remembered as the most influential foreteller not bounded by time. If one can see the future, it is unambiguous that his legacy is not fading away anytime soon unlike his past.

Related Read: How complex Was Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy?


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