The Prophesies of Nostradamus

Did Nostradamus really predict the future of the world, or did he relate his individual experience in poetic and symbolic language? In the course of this century, people have often tried to decipher the text of the famous prophesies of Nostradamus who, during his lifetime, acquired fame and fortune for his talents as a seer.

However, you can neither read nor interpret these impenetrable texts without considering the customs, concerns and mentality of the men of the Renaissance as well as the social, cultural and political context of this period. It follows from this, that you cannot say or believe that all the ‘translations’ of the works of Nostradamus which are available, are reliable and truthful.

Indeed, under cover of the prognostications – this was the name given to the almanacs containing the yearly astrological prophesies which were published and circulated in France -Nostradamus joined the descendants of the biblical prophets and the great mystics of the Middle Ages.

Like Champollion who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphics, will anyone ever be able to translate the language used by Nostradamus, since it was set out as a poetic discourse with a visionary and prophetic character, based on a mythical and symbolic interpretation of the world and of life?

In such poetic language, the rhymes, the sounds and the images or the impressions which it gives, get in the way of a rational or factual interpretation. Nostradamus got his gift of poetry from divine inspiration and, following the example of Pierre de Ronsard, who was his contemporary and admirer, he likened it to a gift for prophesy. In fact, it was a principle, today we would say a fashion, among the poets of the Renaissance, who, when referring to the arts of Antiquity, would associate poetic science with spiritual reasoning.

How Did Nostradamus See His Prophetic Visions?

It was by re-visiting the ancient traditions of divination by water and fire, i.e. hydromancy and pyromancy and also by using the science of the stars, that Nostradamus, for nights on end, would consult the oracles, talking to the angels (which was common practice in all the occult philosophy of the Renaissance), and carrying out the rites of initiation which were commonly practised in Antiquity.

During the course of these sessions, he had prophetic visions which he transcribed in the form of poetic quatrains in a symbolic language. To understand how these visions came to him and how he translated them, we quote the first two quatrains of the first Century of Nostradamus:

Seated at night in my secret study, Alone, reposing over the brazen tripod, (this was the sacred seat on which the priests of Apollo, in Greece, delivered their oracles) A slender flame leaps out of the solitude, Making me pronounce that which is not in vain.

With divining rod in hand, I wet the limb and foot, (the limb would represent the sojourn of the souls inside the zodiac) Set in the middle of the branches, Fearsome awe trembles my hand, I await, Heavenly splendour! The Divine Genius sitteth by.

What Message Has Nostradamus Left Us?

Joining the mystical ways of thinking of his time, notably those of the Christian cabbalists who were themselves inspired by the wisdom and understanding of the wise men, philosophers and poets of Antiquity, Nostradamus drew his prophetic visions from the magic and science of Antiquity.

But what he saw, like all the prophets and seers before him, he could not translate and transmit to the world at large other than through a poetic and symbolic language in which each person would find his own interpretation. It is true that vision and prediction come from the same principle.

But the language used by Nostradamus can only be perceived and understood within the framework of a mystical individual experience, similar to that which he himself lived through. That is the true message contained in his quatrains. All those who have thought that they could find simple historical predictions within the quatrains, have been mistaken.

For everything that Michel de Nostredame prophesied in the sunset of his life, was a spiritual individual experience which he had very much wanted to pass on to the world, so that each person would perhaps aspire to live it in his turn just as Nostradamus had done.

Did Nostradamus ‘predict1 the French Revolution?

July 1790. A battalion of national guards from Marseilles enters Salon-de-Provence, welcome by the ‘Bailli’ (mayor), Citizen David. Hardly were they settled in the town, when a small group of them, led by August, a mercenary and notorious thief, went to the Church of the Cordeliers to ransack it. In doing this they opened the tomb of Nostradamus, which was at the entrance of the church, and smashed his coffin open.

The remains of the Salon-de-Provence physician were scattered, pillaged and desecrated. Others joined in and shared out the relics as if they were those of a saint. A horrified citizen, less frightened than the others, ran to warn the mayor. He, accompanied by his own armed man, went at once to the church of the Cordeliers. A short brawl followed, in the course of which August and his fellow villains were arrested.

With their crime over (it caused them to be shot three days later), and with calm restored, the mayor gathered up what remained of the relics of the Provencale, star-gazing doctor: among them he found a medal, on which was engraved a date: 1790! He declared to his town’s inhabitants: ‘Citizen Nostradamus had predicted Liberty! We owe gratitude and respect!

Where does the Nostradamus legend start? We don’t really know. Indeed, in the 16th and 17th centuries, several astrologers, such as John Dee and Robert Fludd from England; Jean-Baptiste Morin from Villefranche, an astrologer and mathematician from the College of France; the capuchin father Francois Yves – author of a book of predictions about events due to occur in France and in England, published in 1654; to name but a few, had all foreseen great upheavals in France in 1790.

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