thousand obscure verses which meaning only becomes clear in retrospect 

- T.W.M. van Berkel -

Nederlandse versie

Logo Econometric Debating ClubEvery year, the Econometric Debating Club, the study society for students of econometrics at the Rotterdam Erasmus University, founded in 1966, publishes an almanac which contains a.o. information about the society and articles which deal with a certain topic. In the almanac 2007-2008, the topic was Back to the future. In connection with this topic, the Almanac Committee invited the author of this website to write a contribution about his research on Nostradamus and the Centuries.
The text of this contribution is published on this page. To the text, notes are added which refer to a number of other articles on this website.


thousand obscure verses which meaning only becomes clear in retrospect

An almanac is a year book with a calendar, added with data like lunar phases and dates of anniversaries, feasts and market days. Astrological data, astrological predictions, good advices and weather forecastst can also be part of an almanac. In Europe, almanacs were are brought into circulation since the midst of the 15th century. The Dutch Enkhuizer Almanak dates from the end of the 16th century.
Between 1556 and 1565, the French astrologer and physician Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame, 1503-1566) wrote Almanachs which besides calendars, dates of anniversaries, feasts and market days contained astrological data and astrological predictions for each month. In his lifetime and after his death, a number of almanacs were produced, carrying his name, due to his reputation,  as well as propagandistic pamphlets, also in the Netherlands.[1]
Nostradamus was heavily criticized by his contemporaries because of a.o. the poor astrological skills he exposed. Examination of the astrological data in the Almanachs clearly show that in a number of cases, his way of determining the zodiacal longitude of the planets lead to false results, which turned his predictions false, from an astrological point of view.[2]

Today, Nostradamus is famous and abused because of the Prophecies, a series of about a thousand obscure quatrains (four-line verses), accompanied by two letters. According to tradition, the future of the world is described in the Prophecies until the end of time. The quatrains contain predictions about a.o. famine, plague and war and the rise and decline of kings and popes. According to a number of Century-scholars, the quatrains contain anagrams of the names of Hitler and Napoleon. Other Century-scholars state that in the quatrains, the invention has been predicted of the air balloon and the long-distance cannon. In the quatrains, recent events like the attempt on the Twin Towers in September 2001 and the Tsunami in South-East Asia in December 2004 are also supposed to be predicted. Sceptic minds debunk the Prophecies as a collection of doggerels, written in a state of confusion or drunkenness, or question their authenticity.  

According to the letters which accompany the Prophecies, each quatrain will be fulfilled, can only be interpreted in one way, will be fulfilled with an exactitude of one week and its meaning will only become clear in retrospect. Only a handful is quatrains contain a fulfilment year. Often, the phrasings of the quatrains are that obscure that they can be interpreted in many ways. In the course of the centuries, some quatrains were linked to tens of events because of this.[3]
Some Century-scholars argue with circular reasoning. Their point of departure is Nostradamus' reputation as an astrologer, prophet and seer. If there is an important event, they go over the Prophecies to see if one of the quatrains corresponds to it to a great or less extent. If such a quatrain is found, they attribute to Nostradamus that he predicted the event, since he is an astrologer, prophet and seer. Actually, the quatrains can only be analysed if the meaning of their author is clear and known. In other words: they should contain the nature of the events, the countries, regions and/or cities which are involved and the fulfilment date with a margin of one week. If one or more of these elements are lacking, a quatrain cannot be linked to any event at all. It is easy, for example, to bring the contents of quatrain 70 of the first chapter of the Prophecies  in connection with the fall of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeiny. The problem, however, is that this quatrain does not contain a fulfilment date. Perhaps Nostradamus had another moment in mind than February 1979.[4]  

The first thing to analyse in the Prophecies is the prediction system which lies behind the quatrains. This prediction system should enable it to put the quatrains, which according to tradition are listed at random, in the proper order of fulfilment. As a result, the quatrains can be compared with the course of history and it will become clear, beyond reasonable doubt, if Nostradamus was right or wrong

The question about the predictional value of the Prophecies  can be answered by looking at the contents of the letters. These letters contain a time structure in which the world is supposed to exist 7.000 or 8.000 years. The beginning is connected with the description of the creation of the world in Genesis, the end is connected with the description of the Last Day in Revelations and with old astrological books. However, humanity already exists for about 40.000 years and the earth for millions of years. The time structure in the Prophecies has no connection with reality. In the letters, it is also stated that the quatrains deal with West- and Central Europe and the countries which surround the Mediterranean Sea, the "old world". Africa, America, Asia and Australia are not mentioned in the quatrains, at the time of their compilation, these continents were rather unknown. Finally, it must be noted that the bible verses in the letters which have to justify the practice of astrology and the art of predictions like in the quatrains, are taken out of their context, rendering this apology false. In my opinion, these three reasons make it clear that the Prophecies cannot be fulfilled at all.[5]  

The interesting thing about the Prophecies is the way people deal with the future and try to see things in a certain perspective. It is also interesting to see in what way people use the Prophecies for their own benefit. In some cases, there intentions are malicious, which became clear in World War II, when employees of Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs combined several texts of Century-comments in order to trip the adversaries by taking advantage of the omnipresent superstition, which resulted in contra-propaganda by the Allies.[6]


De Meern, the Netherlands, May 15, 2007
T.W.M. van Berkel



  1. Van Berkel: Quadrains de Nostradamus Imprimez à Aix-en-Provence, 1525 / Eenige Prophetien van Michiel Nostradamus, van 't jaer 1525, tot Ake in Proventie gedruckt, dewelcke nu in dese tijd worden vervuldt. [text]
  2. Van Berkel: Astrological anomalies in Almanachs, Pronostications and correspondence. [text]
  3. Van Berkel: Quatrain 03-57 and Die Weissagungen des Nostradamus (C. Loog, Pfullingen in Württemberg, 1921 [1920]). [text]
  4. Van Berkel: Letter on quatrain 01-70 (astrological magazine Sagittarius, NL, 1980). [text]
  5. Van Berkel: The value of the predictions. [text]
  6. Van Berkel: 
    - Was bringt das Jahr 1940? (Berlin, 1940 [1939]);
    - Die Prophezeiungen des Nostradamus (Informations-Schriften #18, Berlin, 1940);
    - Der Seher von Salon (Informations-Schriften #38, Berlin, 1941);
    Voorspellingen die uitgekomen zijn - Michel Nostradamus spreekt in 1558 over het verloop en den uitslag van dezen oorlog. (Arnhem, 1941);
    - American Nostradamus-movies (Hollywood, 1941-1944 [1938-1955]). [text]

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