ORACLES OF NOSTRADAMUS - Préface À Mon Fils
Préface À Mon Fils
THE PREFACE OF MICHAEL NOSTRADAMUS TO HIS PROPHECIES
To César Nostradamus his son, life and felicity. Thy late arrival, 1 César Nostradamus my son, has made me bestow much time, through nightly vigils, to leave you in writing a memorial to refer to, after the corporal extinction of your progenitor, that might serve for the common profit of mankind, out of what the Divine Being has permitted me to learn from the revolution of the stars. And since it has pleased the immortal God that thou shouldst come into the natural light of this terrene abode, and shouldst say that thy years are not yet calculated astronomically, and thy March months are incapable to receive in their weak understanding what I must necessarily record [as to happen] after my time:--seeing also that it is not possible to leave thee in writing what might suffer injury and be obliterated by time; for the inherited gift of occult prediction will remain confined to my own bowels:--considering that events of human proposal are uncertain, whilst all is governed and directed by the incalculable power of Heaven, guiding us, not by
Although for years past I have predicted, a long time in advance, what has afterwards come to pass, and in particular regions attributing the whole accomplishment to divine power and inspiration, also other unfortunate and fortunate occurrences have been pronounced with accelerated promptitude which have since happened in other parts of the world,--for I was willing to maintain silence and to pass over matters that might prove injurious [if published] not only as relates to the present time, but also for the most part of future time, if committed to writing, since kingdoms, sects, and religions will pass through stages so very contrary, and, as regards the present time, diametrically opposed,--that if I were to relate what will happen in the future, governors, sectaries, and ecclesiastics would find it so ill-accordant with [si] their auricular fancy, that they would go near to condemn what future ages will know and perceive to be true. Considering also the sentence of the true
[paragraph continues] Saviour, "Nolite sanctum dare canibus neque mittatis rnargaritas vestras ante porcos, ne forte conculcent eas pedibus suis, et conversi dirumpant vos" [Matt. vii. 6].
This it is which has led me to withhold my tongue from the vulgar, and my pen from paper. But, later on, I thought I would enlarge a little, and declare in dark and abstruse sayings in consideration of [pour] the vulgar advent [vid, Le Pelletier, i. 163] the most urgent of its future causes, as perceived by me, be the revolutionary changes what they may, so only as not to scandalize the auricular frigidity (of my hearers), and write all down under a cloudy figure that shall essentially and above all things be prophetical. Although "Abscondidisti hæc à sapientibus, et prudentibus, id est, potentibus et regibus, et enucleasti ea exiguis et tenuibus." 1 By the grace of God and the good angels, the Prophets have had committed to them the spirit of vaticination, by which they see things at a distance, and are enabled to forecast future events. For there is nothing that can be accomplished without Him, whose power and goodness are so great to all His creatures as long as they put their trust in Him, much as they may be [exposed] or subject to other influences, [yet] on account of their likeness to the nature of their good guardian angel [or genius] that heat and prophetic power draweth nigh to us, as do the rays of the sun which cast their influence alike upon bodies that are elementary and non-elementary. As for ourselves personally who are but human, we can attain to nothing by our own unaided natural knowledge, nor the bent of our intelligence, in the way of deciphering the recondite secrets of God the Creator. "Quia non est nostrum noscere tempora,
nec momenta," 1 etc. Although, indeed, now or hereafter some persons may arrive to whom God Almighty may be pleased to reveal by imaginative impression some secrets of the future, as accorded in time past to judicial astrology, when [que for quand] a certain power and volitional faculty came upon them, as a flame of fire appears. 2 They grew inspired, and were able to judge of all inspiration, human and divine, alike. For the divine works, which are absolutely universal, God will complete; those which are contingent, or medial, the good angels direct; and the third sort come under the evil angels. 3
Perhaps, my son, I speak to thee here a little too occultly. But as to the hidden vaticinations which come to one by the subtle spirit of fire, or sometimes by the understanding disturbed, [it may even be, by] contemplating the remotest stars, as being intelligences on the watch, even to giving utterance to declarations [that] being taken down in writing declare, without favour, and without any taint of improper
loquacity, that all things whatsoever proceed from the divine power of the great eternal Deity from whom all goodness emanates. Further, my son, although I have inserted the name of prophet, I do not desire to assume a title of so high sublimity at the present moment. For he who "Propheta dicitur hodie, olim vocabatur videns;" 1 for, strictly speaking, my son, a prophet is one who sees things remote from the knowledge of all mankind. Or, to put the case; to the prophet, by means of the perfect light of prophecy, there he opened up very manifestly divine things as well as human; which cannot come about, seeing that the effects of future prediction extend to such remote periods. Now, the secrets of God are incomprehensible, and their efficient virtue belongs to a sphere far remote from natural knowledge; for, deriving their immediate origin from the free will, things set in motion causes that of themselves could never attract such attention as could make them recognized, either by human augury, or by any other knowledge of occult power; it is a thing comprised only within the concavity of heaven itself, from the present fact of all eternity, which comes in itself to embrace all time.
Still, by the means of some eternal power, by an epileptic Herculean agitation, the causes by the celestial movement become known. I do not say, my son, in order that you may fully understand me, that the knowledge of this matter cannot yet impress itself upon thy feeble brain, that very remote future causes may not come within the cognizance of a reasonable being; if they are, notwithstanding, purely the creation of the intellectual soul of things present, future things are not by any means too hidden or concealed. But the perfect knowledge of causes cannot be acquired without divine inspiration; since all prophetic inspiration derives its
first motive principle from God the Creator, next from good fortune, and then from nature. Wherefore the independent causes being independently produced, or not produced, the presage partially happens, where it was predicted. For the human understanding, being intellectually create', cannot a penetrate occult causes, otherwise than by the voice of a genius by means of the thin flame (vid. page 68) [showing] to what direction future causes incline to develop themselves. And further, my son, I implore you never to apply your understanding on such reveries and vanities as dry up the body and bring perdition to the soul and disturb all the senses. In like manner, I caution you against the seduction of a more than execrable magic, that has been denounced already by the sacred Scriptures, by the divine canons of the Church--although we have to exempt from this judgment Judicial Astrology. By the aid of this it is, and by divine revelation and inspiration, united with deep calculations, we have reduced our prophecies to writing. And, notwithstanding that this occult philosophy was not reproved by the Church, I have felt no desire to divulge their unbridled promptings. Although many volumes have come before me, which had laid hidden for many ages. But dreading what might happen in the future, after reading them, I presented them to Vulcan, and as the fire kindled them, the flame, licking the air, shot forth an unaccustomed brightness, clearer than the light is of natural flame, resembling more the explosion of powder, casting a subtle illumination over the house as if the whole were wrapped in sudden conflagration.--So that at last you might not in the future be abused by searching for the perfect transformation, lunar or solar, or incorruptible metals hidden under the earth, or the sea, I reduced them to ashes.--But as to the judgment
which perfects itself by means of the celestial judgment, that I am desirous to manifest to you: by that method you may have cognizance of things future, avoiding all fantastic imaginations that may arise, and limiting the particularity of the topics by divine and supernatural inspiration; harmonizing with the celestial figures these topics, and that part of time, which the occult property has relation to, by the potential virtue and faculty divine, in whose presence the three aspects of time are clasped in one by eternity--an evolution that connects in one causes past, present, and future--"quia omnia sunt nuda et aperta, etc." 1--
From all which, my son, you can easily comprehend, notwithstanding your tender brain, the things that are to happen can be foretold by nocturnal and celestial lights, which are natural, coupled to a spirit of prophecy,--not that I would assume the name or efficacy of a prophet, but, by revealed inspiration, as a mortal man the senses place me no farther from heaven than the feet are from the earth. "Possum non errare, falli, decipi," 2 (albeit) I am the greatest sinner in this world, and heir to every human affliction. But being surprised sometimes in the ecstatic work, amid prolonged calculation, and engaged in nocturnal studies of sweet odour, I have composed books of prophecies, containing each one hundred astronomic quatrains of forecasts, which I have tried to polish through obscurely, and which are perpetual vaticinations, from now to the year 3797. It is possible that this figure will make some lift up their forehead, at such a vast extent of time, and variety of things to take place under the concave journey of the moon; and this universal treatment of causes, my son,
throughout the earth, which, if you reach the natural age, of man, you will see in your climate, under the heaven of your proper nativity, as things that have been foreseen.
Although the everlasting God alone knows the eternity of the light proceeding from Himself, I say frankly to all to whom He has decreed in long and melancholy inspiration to reveal His limitless magnitude, which is beyond both mensuration and comprehension, that by means of this occult cause divinely manifested, principally by two chief causes, comprised in the understanding of the inspired one who prophesies. One is that which comes by infusion, which clarifies the supernatural light, in him who predicts by astral process, or forecasts by inspired revelation, which is practically a participation in the divine eternity, by which means the prophet comes to judge of that which his share of divine spirit has given him, by means of communication with God the Creator, and the natural endowment accorded him. It is to know that what is predicted is true, and has had a heavenly origin; that such light and the thin flame is altogether efficacious; that it descends from above, no less than does natural clearness; and natural light renders philosophers quite sure of their principles, so that by means of the principles of a first cause they have penetrated the profoundest abysses and attained the loftiest doctrines.
But to this end, my son, that I may not wander too profoundly for the future capacity of thy senses, and also because I find that letters shall suffer great and incomparable loss, and that I find the world before the universal conflagration, such deluges and deep submersion, that there will remain scarcely any land not covered with water, and that for so long a period, that everything will perish except Ethnographies and Topographies. Further, after and before these inundations, in many districts the rains will have been
so slight, and there will fall from heaven such an abundance of fire and incandescent stones, that scarcely anything will remain unconsumed, and this will occur a short time before the last conflagration. Further, when the planet Mars completes its cycle, at the end of his second period, he will recommence his course. But some will gather in Aquarius through several years, and others in Cancer, which will be of still longer duration. Now that we are conducted by the moon, under the direction of the Creator, and before she has finished her entire circuit the sun will come, and then Saturn. Now, according to the celestial signs, the reign of Saturn shall come back again, so that, all calculated, the world is drawing on towards its anaragonic revolution.
From the time I am writing this, before 177 years 3 months and 11 days, by pestilence, long famine, and wars, and more still by inundations, the world between this day and that, before and after, shall be diminished, and its population so reduced that there will hardly be hands enough to attend to agriculture, and the lands will be left as long without culture as they have been under tillage. This, so far as celestial judgment manifests, that we are now in the seventh millenary, which completes all and introduces us to the eighth, where is the upper firmament of the eighth sphere, which, in a latitudinary dimension, is where the Almighty will come to complete the revolution, where the celestial figures will return to their courses, and the upper motion which renders the earth stable for us and fixed, "non inclinabitur in seculum seculorum," 1 unless His will be accomplished, and no otherwise.
Although by ambiguous opinions exceeding all natural reason by Mahometical dreams, also sometimes God the Creator by the ministry of angels of fire, and missive flame,
presents to the external senses, even of our eyes, the causes of future predictions, that indicate the future event which must manifest itself to him who presages anything. For the presage which is made by the exterior light comes infallibly to judge partly with and by means of the exterior flame; although truly the part which seems to come by the eye of the understanding springs only from the lesion of the imaginative sense. The reason is too evident, the whole is predicted by the afflatus of divinity, and by means of the angelic spirit inspired to the man prophesying, rendering him [as it were] anointed with vaticinations, visiting him to illuminate him, and, stirring the forefront of his phantasy by divers nightly apparitions no less than daily certitude, he prophesies by astronomic administration conjoined with the holiest future prediction, taking nothing into his consideration but the hardihood of his free courage.
Come at this hour to understand, my son, that I find by my revelations [astral], and which are in accordance with revealed inspiration, that the sword of death is on its way to us now, in the shape of pestilence, war (more horrible than has been known for three generations of men), and famine, that shall fall upon the earth, and return upon it at frequent intervals. For the stars accord with such a revolution, and with the written word, "Visitabo in virgâ ferrea iniquitates eorum, et in verberibus percutiam eos." 1 For the mercy of God, my son, will not be spread abroad for a time, till the major part of my prophesies shall have been accomplished, and have become by accomplishment resolved. Thus oftentimes in the course of these sinister storms the Lord will say, "Conteram ego, et confringam, et
non miserebor." 1 And a thousand other accidents will come by waters and continual rain, as I have more fully and at large set forth in my other Prophecies, which are drawn out at length, in solutâ oratione; 2 (in these I) designate the localities, times, and terms prefixed, that all men who come after may see, recognizing the circumstances that come about by infallible indications. As we have marked by the others where we speak more clearly, for although they are covered with a veil of cloud, they are clear enough to be comprehended by men of good intelligence: "Sed quando submoventa erit ignorantia," 3 the total will stand out with greater clearance still. Making an end here, my son, take now this gift of thy father, Michael Nostradamus, hoping to expound to thee each several prophecy of these quatrains here given, beseeching the immortal Father that He will endue thee with a long life of happy and prospering felicity.
From Salon, this 1st of March, 1555.
39:1 César Nostradamus was born at the beginning of 1555, so he was but a few weeks old when his father dedicated to him the first four "Centuries," published for the first time in 1555, by Macé Bonhonune, the printer at Lyons. In the name of this son the epistle is really a dedication to his spiritual sons; that is, to his interpreters and students in all future ages.
40:1 Lymphatics, Garencières (p. 16) tells, were anciently those who were mad for love; and he absurdly adds that the sign of it was, that such persons threw themselves into the water,--lympha meaning water. Varro says that in Greece those who were mad were called νυμφολήπτους, which means caught by nymphs. Festus, to fit this, thinks that men went mad by seeing the image of nymphs in the water fountains. Others have it that they were afraid of water, as if it were hydrophobia that possessed them. But nympha and lympha approach each other so nearly, that when a man is once caught by a nymph he is, for the time being, mad to all intents and purposes,--"it is not given to a man to love and to be wise." Leaving all this to be settled as it may, there is no question but in the medical technology of Nostradamus a deep melancholy is what was understood by the Lymphatic motion,--melancholy being the temperament most apt for study, poetry, and vaticination. Garencières invents a word for the occasion, or uses one that has since grown obsolete. He employs the verb lymphatize.
40:2 "Such alone as are inspired by the divine power can predict particular events in a spirit of prophecy"
41:1 "Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, i.e. from the powerful and from kings, and hast revealed them to the small and weak." This is Nostradamus's gloss upon Matt. xi. 25.
42:1 Acts i. 7.
42:2 Nostradamus seems, whenever he alludes to this appearance of flame as preceding vaticination, to have in his mind the descent of tongues of fire at Pentecost (Acts ii. 3), διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρόσ. A flame of fire, be it observed, conveys a double symbol: it resembles a tongue in form. Its luminousness and its purifying tendency express the celestial nature of spirit, as contrasted with matter, and also inspiration. So that intrinsically and extrinsically it represents prophetic utterance. Grotius contributes an unusually good note upon this passage, pointing out that as in Genesis (xi. g), confusion of tongues scattered mankind, so hero (Acts ii. 3) the gift of tongues was to bring men again into one brotherhood.
42:3 This passage is very difficult to bring to a clear sense in translation, Garencières has simply evaded it. It seems to mean that God operates all the great effects in the universe; that, as He is the Maker, so is He the perpetual operator in the world,--its cause and life; but that the guardian angels are good and bad, and are charged with some sort of duty and office, not as affecting the mechanic frame of the world, but in respect of mankind. This is in conformity with the Cabala and Hermetical teaching; but what he precisely means cannot, I think, be quite absolutely stated.
43:1 "He who is called prophet now, once was called seer."
45:1 "For all things are naked and open."
45:2 "I am able not to err, fail, or be deceived."
47:1 "Whence it shall not deviate from age to age."
48:1 "I will visit their iniquities with a rod of iron, and with blows will strike them." This somewhat resembles a passage in the Psalms (ii. 7), but it is not a quotation.
49:1 "I will trample them and break them, and not show pity." This resembles Isai. lxiii. 3.
49:2 In prose, and not in verse, as the quatrains are. These prose forcastings have, I am afraid, been altogether lost.
49:3 "When the time arrives for the removal of ignorance."