Nostradamus Essay, Research Paper
Nostradamus was a physician and astrologer that lived during the fourteenth century. His insights in to modern day occurrences have astounded millions, and it leaves them wondering about the translations of his prophecies that have not occurred yet, particularly his perspicacity about the end of the world.
Nostradamus was born in Saint Remi, in southern France, and was raised as a Roman Catholic. He studied medicine in Montpellier, and started a practice about 1525. Soon after, he began to treat victims of the plague in communities of southern France. Nostradamus used innovative methods of treatment, and his success in curing extremely ill patients earned him a reputation as a specially gifted healer (Encarta 96). Catherine de Medicis, queen of France, asked him to plot the horoscopes of her husband, King Henry II, and their children. In 1560, King Charles IX of France appointed Nostradamus court physician. The place that he holds in today s history books, however, art not about his success as a physician.
Apart from his professional works he produced a number of prophetic works. We discern between the Centuries and the Prognostications. The Prognostications are like an Almanac. They contain a series of Predictions about the next year. Because these predictions were fulfilled (or not) more than 440 years ago few are interested in them.
The really interesting stuff is the Centuries. This name comes from the fact that each Century contains 100 prophetic verses of 4 lines. These verses are called quatrains. Nostradamus wrote 10 Centuries, which are commonly numbered by roman numerals I to X. (Flanagan WWW)
Nostradamus left his predictions in the form of several letters, almost 1000 4-line verses called quatrains (the Centuries), and a collection of 6-line verses called sixains. The prophesies are not sequential by date. Some interesting coincidences have been observed between the quatrain number (in the Centuries) and the last two digits of the year of the corresponding event, but this is not uniformly true. For unknown reasons, Century VII contains only 42 quatrains. The reason behind this is unknown. However, there are publications with more than 42 verses. Although these are written in the style of Nostradamus we can not be sure about their origin.
Nostradamus s writings are all very obscure. This was done to avoid persecution from the Inquisition. He also gives this as the reason why the quatrains are not in chronological order. (Flanagan WWW). Another possible explanation for the obscurity of the quatrains has to do with the breadth of Nostradamus’ visions. His visions seem to span thousands of years. It was probably difficult for him to describe 20th and 21st century technology using 16th century French. Also, it is possible that a single quatrain could refer to several events. The incorporation of ‘links’ to several different events would further increase the obscurity of a quatrain. Other reasons for the obscurity include: the use of language that was, even when written, archaic, use of anagrams and unknown names, use of astrological or mythological references, inconsistent spelling, and nonstandard word order. Nostradamus wrote primarily in “early Modern French,” with an admixture of archaic words mostly derived from Latin and Greek. Early Modern French is approximately analogous with Shakespearean English. He also incorporates words from the “Languedoc” or Provincial dialect of southern France. Readers who are familiar with Latin and modern French can often understand the original language, even if they have not studied early French or Provincial.
Undoubtedly, the sort of random similarity that accounts for many of the “hits” that have been found by various interpreters discourages belief. Verses that are extremely vague and ambiguous can be interpreted in many different ways. Unfortunately, most of Nostradamus’ verses are of the vague and ambiguous persuasion. Thus, it is possible to find at least one verse that can be interpreted as almost any given event, provided that the interpretation is done after the event has already happened.
This is an example of a quatrain that predicts the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger . It is taken from Century I, quatrain 81:
D’humain troupeau neuf seront mis a` part,
De iugement & conseil separez:
Leur sort sera diuise’ en depart,
Kappa, Thita, Lambda mors bannis esgarez.
This is the English translation:
From the human flock seven will be sent away,
Separated from control and advice
Their fate will be sealed on departure
K-Th-L make an error; the dead banished (Adachi WWW)
In the translation, it says seven will be sent away . The number of crew members aboard the challenger space shuttle was seven. Separated from control and advice refers to the fact that after liftoff, the shuttle s communication line was cut with mission control. From the first moment after liftoff, there was a fire on the shuttle, so their fate was sealed on departure . ThioKol [was the] manufacturer of the defective rocket engine. Vowels are omitted and two consonants transposed. This explains the last line of the quatrain. (Adachi WWW)
Other translations of the prophecies of Nostradamus do not seem so clear, however. The pairing of verses to a scholar s interpretation do not always seem to match up. Here is century II, quatrain six.
Aupres des portes & dedans deux citez
Seront deux fleaux, & onc n’apperceut VN TEL,
Faim, dedans peste, de fer hors gens boutez,
Crier secours au grand Dieu immortel.
The English translation as interpreted by Flanagan follows.
Near the gates and inside two cities
Will be TWO FLAWS, and nobody noticed it [from] INTEL
Hunger, pest inside, by steel people thrown out
Cry for help to the great immortal God.
Flanagan claims that this quatrain describes the bug that was in Microsoft s Pentium chip. The name intel is given on closer inspection. The spelling is not quite correct: a V instead of an I, and an extra space between N and T are present. The word more closely resembles the French expression ‘un tel’. This would be excepted by most, since U s and V s are often substituted. Critics could say that ‘un tel’ would be a common French expression, and dismiss the prediction as pure chance. However, the words ‘vn tel’ occur only once in all the quatrains, and that’s here. V is also the roman numeral five, as in 586, PENTium, or five missing lookup fnord table entries (which caused the bug). In the next line the word ‘inside’ (dedans) occurs twice, which is remarkable, considering that it only occurs twenty-four times in total in all the quatrains. This suggests the famous advertisement, Intel Inside. The number twenty-four itself also has a meaning: It is the mean time between division errors (in days) for normal spreadsheet usage according to IBM’s analysis. In the next line, there are some doubts whether the gates refer to Bill Gates, or rather to the logical gates on the microprocessor. The cities mean corporations, as in Microsoft and Intel. Intel had the pentium bug, and Microsoft the Windows calculator bug. The other interpretation of city is the aspect of the microprocessor when looked at under a microscope. The different parts of the processors can be viewed as distinct neighboring cities. According to this interpretation, another Pentium bug will be found in one of the other units. It’s severity will be comparable to the FDIV bug. Two flaws refers to the FDIV flaw, and the yet-to-be discovered integer flaw. Hunger refers to Intel s greed, which made them hide the flaw and minimize it later. The hunger may also hint at Intel’s bankruptcy after the second flaw will be discovered by the public. By steel
refers to the fact that it was a hardware bug, not a software bug. People thrown out refers to the people who wanted a replacement chip, but were not given one. Cry for help to the great immortal God refers to the people crying for help from the law. Law is sometimes referred to as the great immortal God of civilization.
This interpretation by Flanagan has come under criticism. Flanagan himself says,
If the prediction is very specific, it is probably bogus. Nostradamus almost always concealed his meaning in anagrams, symbolism, and mythological allusions. If the event is minor in the grand scheme of things , the prediction is probably bogus. (Flanagan, WWW)
One of the best known prognostications of Nostradamus is his prediction of three antichrists. The first two, according to those who study Nostradamus s works, are commonly believed to be Napoleon and Hitler. Hitler s name is gave slightly modified to read hister . The third antichrist has not yet been recognized. He is believed by most to be alive at the current time, but he has not yet come to power.
The Antichrist will spend many years working silently behind the scenes to consolidate his power, and make his appearance onto the international arena once the structure is in place. He will have planned carefully and the countries he goes against will be unprepared for his golden-tongued treachery. (Prophecies of Nostradamus WWW)
The preceding quote is the aforementioned s summary of century III quatrain thirty-four. Other distinguishing features of the third antichrist will be a uniform monetary system. Another characteristic of the third antichrist will be the taking over of Asia. Century IV quatrain fifty describes this awesome event.
The Antichrist will take over Asia by appointing subcommanders to rule vast tracts of land for him. But their ties to him will be masked and the world will not realize they are merely puppets until a succession of them are installed in the place of predecessors. At first the U.S. will not interfere because it is thought the government was freely chosen by the people, but only later realize the leaders were forced on the populace as mouthpieces and tools for the Antichrist.
It is thought that the antichrist will also initiate World War Three. The prophecies of Nostradamus describe horrific nuclear and biological war. After the conquest of Asia, the third antichrist will initiate nuclear attacks on England and the United states. Several quatrains describe a milky white rain that will result from the third antichrist. This is the kind of precipitation that falls after a nuclear bomb is detonated. The combination of biological and nuclear warfare will have a great effect on the Earth s climate, and food storages will be exhausted because of farmers inability to grow anything. Wide-spread cannibalism will sweep the Earth, as Nostradamus describes the taking of new-born infants to satisfy hunger.
In century IX quatrain 73, Nostradamus predicts that the third antichrist s reign will last no more than an orbit of Saturn, which is roughly twenty nine and a half years. He also gives a time frame as he says the time from World War II to the end of World War III and the time of troubles will almost encompass a century in itself. This means that World War III would be over by 2042. If the prophecy is true, that means trouble with the rise of power of the new antichrist will begin in 2012.
World War III will not bring the end of the world, however. Nostradamus clearly states in his writings that the world will end in the year 3797. This is one of the only remarks made by Nostradamus that is concise, and clear. (Leoni 107)
Whether people subscribe to Nostradamus or not is a matter of belief. However, many people in modern society devote much time to the study of his work. Study of Nostradamus is an interesting intellectual exercise, even for skeptics. Some people with adequate grounding in French, Latin, and other languages find Nostradamus to be an interesting diversion. Many people enjoy reading the original words that Caesar, Dante and Chaucer wrote for the same reason.
There are also a number of USENET discussion groups that come up with their own interpretations of some of the quatrains, and they try to match them to modern day events.
Certainly, some writings are so obscure that they could be matched to any event, but some seem so exact, and so right on, that the events that are described that have not taken place yet seem impending.
Some intelligent non-skeptics believe that the quatrains have some prophetic value. If it can be determined that Nostradamus has accurately predicted some events of the past four-hundred and forty years, then it makes sense that some people would use the quatrains as a tool for gaining insight on the future.