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The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of…

The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World's Most Famous Seer

by James Randi

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1164104,032 (3.47)None
  1. 10
    The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (sgerbic)
    sgerbic: This book may help you understand how/why people can continue to believe in seerers like Nostradamus even when faced with the facts.
  2. 00
    Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer (sgerbic)
    sgerbic: Another great read to help understand why faced with the common sense of science people will still cling to pseudoscience.

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Showing 4 of 4
My reactions to reading this book in 1992.

An interesting book which reveals the many sides to Michael Nostradamus: quite, competent doctor, composer of recipes, and, of course, would-be prophet. Randi has done the unenviable task of wading through Nostradamus’ turgid, muddled poetry to debunk the 10 best cases Nostradamians put forth to bolster his credibility. Randi shows many of these are disguised retroactive prophecies or complete non-matches for the allegedly prophesied events. Randi also shows that Nostradamus did, on occasion, make quite clear prophecies -- which didn’t come true. Randi also delves into the interesting possibility Nostradamus was a Protestant sympahtizer. Randi also does some nice summarizing on other contemporary prophets to Nostradamus (like John Dee and Paracelsus), end of the world prophecies, 16th century medicine, and the history and types of astrology. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 20, 2012 |
Randi turns his "amazing" to the Seer of Salon. He examines the Nostradamus legend and how it sprang into being. He ranges widely through the history of prognostication, with side trips into astrology and alchemy to show the continuity of magical thinking. He spends quite a bit less time on Nostradamus than I would have wished, and examines in detail only 10 of the quatrains that have become quite prominent. He also spends little time on the spurious predictions that have sprung up with the name Nostradamus stuck on them posthumously. Overall, a good entry, but could have been better. ( )
1 vote Devil_llama | Mar 9, 2012 |
Just got this book myself. Strangely enough, I know the one other person who has reviewed it ( )
  GeekGoddess | Jan 10, 2011 |
Purchased this book at TAM6 and had it autographed by The Amazing One himself, “To Susan from James Randi.” Pretty cool! I am amazed at how well researched this book is, the detail and documentation clearly shows Randi as a through scholar. I knew little of Nostradamus before reading this book, little outside of popular culture that is.

According to Randi, there is nothing to Nostradamus’s “predictions” all “hits” are in the mind of the believer. The predictions are stretched to fit an event after the event has taken place, no quatrain has ever been used to predict an event before it occurred. Humans adjust the French, spelling, punctuation, even anagram the quatrain to make it appear Nostradamus is a seerer.

The French and English history of this time is more interesting to me than the analysis of the quatrains. (Probably because I knew they were bunk to begin with) As usual I am approaching my education (of history) from many different perspectives, Nostradamus is just the most recent, but maybe the most colorful addition.

Randi writes that many of the Nazi and Hitler references were written during WWII, and dropped over occupied territory in order to undermine German war aims. I had an interesting thought while reading the chapter on WWII, the Nazis and Stalin are often characterized negatively as atheists, they may well be, what is forgotten is that they may have turned from religion, but have turned to the occult and pseudoscience instead. There are middle grounds between atheists and the religious, one area is the crazy world of pseudoscience.

Interesting to read about the affects of absinthe, apparently Nostradamus may have used this French liqueur, made from wormwood it is known to bring “…about powerful hallucinations yearning disorientation, crushing depression and often total insanity.” 70%-80% alcohol content is enough to cause serious damage to the central nervous system, some of the notables that used absinthe are Edgar Allan Poe and Van Gogh, humm.

The answer to the question, does Randi believe Nostradamus to be a fraud or a believer in his ability to prophesize may be answered on page 154. Randi is discussing Edgar Leoni’s opinion that it is “…too farfetched to be acceptable…that Nostradamus could have fooled his ‘disciple’, his son…various notable of Salon, the rulers of France…and scores of other people with this gigantic ‘joke’ of his is quite ridiculous.” Randi’s answer to this is that “Charlatans have always been able to deceive…because these persons usually have no expertise with which they can differentiate between popular fraud and genuine phenomena, yet passionately believe themselves about being deceived.”

Over all this is a wonderful book, lots of detail and research. Randi’s writing style is very readable, you feel he might just be talking to you. I just wish I were more interested in Nostradamus and French history in general. I may need to revisit this book again.

22-2008 ( )
  sgerbic | Jul 13, 2008 |
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