A thriving industry surrounds the 16th century astrologer and “seer” Nostradamus. It would probably be impossible to count the number of books, articles and TV programmes that have been produced claiming that this or that event was predicted by him in his original writings from about five hundred years ago. But did he actually predict anything at all? I don’t think so.
Those who support Nostradamus – in particular those who make money peddling books and so on – are quick to try to justify it all by pointing to various notable events, and then pointing to one of Nostradamus’ verses or quatrains, saying, “Look! It all fits!”
Now, hang on a minute. A common criticism made by sceptics is the fact that whenever a big event happens (usually some disaster), it is only later that these things are claimed to have been predicted by this famous French astrologer. And that is just so easy to do: every “prediction” that Nostradamus made can be interpreted in different ways, and retro-fitted after the event to fit a desired result. In other words, it is always after something happens that a quatrain is given meaning, never before.
The way to test whether Nostradamus really predicted events that are unfolding now would be for someone to actually interpret some of the quatrains, give definite predictions based on them, and then present those predictions publicly so that they can be tested. Which is something that few Nostradamus fans seem willing to do.
Then again… Eureka! I was recently poking around a local charity shop and found a book that does just that. Written by an author called Valerie Hewitt, Nostradamus: His Key To The Centuries is just the very thing. The author claims to have discovered a code hidden within the mystic writings, and she has been able to unlock the secrets within. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I happily parted with 50 pence to find out whether my years of scepticism had been nothing but a delusion.
What makes this book so good as a test of Nostradamus is the fact that it was written in 1992, and then published in 1994. The predictions it contains cover the years 1995 to 2010, so the fact that those years are now in the past makes it ideal to see whether what was foretold actually came to pass. Excellent stuff.
I’ll not spend any time on the so-called “code” that Hewitt claims to have discovered. She includes tables of numbers and letters, and some accompanying gobbledegook, but if you stay with this analysis, you will soon see why you don’t need to get very excited about it.
I’ll not go through every prophecy that Hewitt lists (there are nearly a hundred of them), but I will try to give a flavour of them. And remember, these are not vague predictions that are open to any interpretation whatsoever, they are very precise. Here we go:
In UK politics, Margaret Thatcher renounces her peerage so that she can re-enter the House of Commons. This was supposed to happen between 1995-1996. (That’s a miss, I think)
Writing in 1992, Hewitt predicts that the then Labour party leader John Smith would be succeeded by Gordon Brown by 1995. (No mention of John Smith’s sudden death, his replacement by Tony Blair and the fact that Brown had to wait until 2007 when Blair stepped down.)
A real biggie is with the royal family. By 1995, according to Hewitt, Prince Charles is now King and Princess Diana is Queen! (That didn’t happen, of course.)
Between 1995 –2000, Diana has concerns about Prince William, who is going to become King in 2000 after King Charles becomes so unpopular that the crown has to be transferred. (Another king-size miss, and no mention of the fact that Diana died in 1997. How could such a significant event be overlooked?)
Cardinal Basil Hume becomes Pope between 1995-1996. (Oops, another miss. Pope John Paul II lived until 2005; Basil Hume died in 1999 so could not have become Pope anyway, although he had been tipped as a possible future pontiff.)
Between 2004-2007, thousands of humans will be travelling in city-sized space ships to all the planets in the solar system except Pluto. (I have to say, I missed all that on the news. Or maybe Hewitt was completely wrong yet again.)
2004 –2005, the planet Venus is being colonised by mankind. (This is just getting silly now.)
And by 2010, the proof of life after death will be provided, and survival of the personality will simply not be doubted again. (Well, I still doubt it.)
And that is just a taster. Whichever way you look at it, there is still no cure for AIDS, children have not been given the vote, the House of Lords has not been abolished, the universe has not “been explained”, there are no anti-gravity flying machines, and –thankfully for many, no doubt – no legally compulsory sporting participation for the over-forties.
I can see the attraction of having a sort of history-book-in-reverse, where one could read about the future and then watch it all unfold. But this book isn’t it – in fact it is not even a history book now, given the fact that all of its predictions of the future should now be part of past history, but turned out to be just so much wishful thinking. I’ll be surprised if this book sees any further reprints.
When it comes to the prophesies of Nostradamus, his promoters should maybe just stick to retro-fitting the facts to fit the verses. Or better still, maybe they should recognise that belief in foretelling the future is just bad thinking.
Oh, by the way, there was no mention of 9/11, either. What a surprise.
Additional note: It turns out that at the time I write this, the book is still available on Amazon: a new copy for £1.25; a used one for as little as one penny. And I have a first edition! Squee!!!