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Nostradamus, the Man Who Saw Through Time, by Lee McCann [1941], at

p. viii p. xi


THE RICH, ACTIVELY FULFILLED LIFE of the French prophet, Michel de Nostradame, is the story of genius not only in its rarest but its most modern form. His ability foreshadowed a hope, now gaining a first hearing in this our day, that science may, in some not too remote tomorrow, discover principles of mental forces which will permit every man to realize within himself a reflection of the powers of Nostradamus.

Many prophets have crossed the brightly lighted stage of history and paused to utter some astounding bit of prescience. But they are seldom remembered for more than a single episode, some ray of strange illumination that for a moment spotlighted the fate of a throne or a battle. Actually there exist but two written documents of prophecy which have pictured a grand-scale continuity of history, and unfolded a tapestry of world futures. One of these is, of course, the mighty word of Scripture. The other is that cryptic romaunt of Europe's fate, the Centuries, written by Nostradamus, Provençal troubadour of destiny.

No one knows as yet what forces shape a prophet, nor how it is that to "remembrance of things past," he adds "remembrance of the things that are to come." Perhaps the Red Queen knew more about it than most.

p. xii

When Alice asked her why she cried out before, instead of after, she had pricked her finger, her majesty sagely observed that it is a poor rule which doesn't work both ways. Nostradamus would have enjoyed that bit of wit, so like his own, and pertinent to prophecy.

What is "before" and "after"? What is up or down when considered outside the limited, inaccurate criteria of the five senses? The fourth-dimensional vision of Nostradamus, like the Red Queen's cry, transcended the meanings which we give these words. The man who saw through time watched, as through a telescope, the distant stars of future events rise and set, beyond the eye of the present, over a period of four hundred years.

"Heaven from all creatures hide the book of Fate,
 All but the page prescrib’d, their present state."

Pope was within his sceptical rights when he penned that couplet, because the vaticinating exceptions among heaven's creatures have always been so few that for people as a whole his words were true. Another Englishman, the modernist Dean Inge, had however a better perspective. As a churchman he accepted prophecy. As an intelligent modern he said that the phenomenon of prevision was quite possibly part of an evolutionary process which would one day become a developed faculty general to man. Considered in this light, Nostradamus, astounding as are his prophecies, is himself,

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the man, of even greater fascination than his work, because he attained in its completeness the faculty to which it is at least a possibility that all may eventually aspire.

It was only a few years ago that several thousand New Yorkers unhinged one of the bronze doors of the American Museum of Natural History in an effort to hear a talk that few could understand when heard. The lecture was on the mathematics of the strange, and to them, new, fourth dimension which they had visualized, confounding it with the psychic world, as opening exciting secret vistas and miraculous powers. Such an incident is indicative of a dawning intensity of popular interest in the world of unseen forces, physical and metaphysical. Vitamins and visions, telescopes and telepathy, all go together as part of the thrilling new universe expanding within the consciousness of the twentieth century.

Science works always first with physical properties and objectives. Our breakfast newspapers tell of atoms cracked and a new element found, and radio serves us up freshly discovered planets with the evening meal. In all this inrush of knowledge nothing has been of such captivating interest as the new discoveries about time which are giving rise to a new point of view as significant for layman as for scientist. Einstein has substituted new time-concepts and time-mechanics for old in the study of the universe. For half a century new inventions in communications have been telescoping time, bringing true Mother Shipton's words:

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"Around the world thoughts shall fly
 In the twinkling of an eye."

[paragraph continues] Now, doctors are timing and graphing the electrical thought impulses of the human brain. And universities are experimenting in psychology departments with a kind of time-sense to which may be linked the phenomena of the psyche.

We are so accustomed to thinking of time as the straight road separated by present experience into its two parts, yesterday and tomorrow. But the scientist is beginning to perceive what the mystic has always known, that time is an unknown country stretching boundlessly in all directions. Nostradamus, in whom awareness of this set him apart from his fellows, was the Marco Polo of time's uncharted land, in which he traveled the future as we travel a continent. From these transcendental voyagings, like Polo, he returned with incredible stories of strange sights. The prophet's rare okapis were a vision of events to come.

Both of these men, whose discoveries were beyond the comprehension of their age, have come late into their own. Archaeology and exploration have verified the narrative of Polo's travels. History, not only since the sixteenth century, but daily, is verifying the time-travels of that other and greater explorer, Nostradamus. He is of yesterday, today, and still a long tomorrow. By virtue of what he was, and of our own hopes, he deserves the distinguished position today which he had in the Renaissance, and serious study in the light of

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what science is teaching us of the power and forces of the mind.

It is an old and tenaciously held popular idea that interest in and concentration on extra-dimensional qualities of the mind tend inevitably to some form of imbalance which may run the gamut from credulity to insanity. Too often in the past superstition has added to this its dark aura of witchcraft and abnormal rites. Nostradamus was, throughout his life, a striking refutation of such beliefs. His intellectual achievements and emotional balance, his social adaptation and vigorous health show him as the pattern of the well-rounded man. Considering his unique gift, he may be said to have had, besides his genius for prophecy, a veritable genius for normality. Had he never written the Centuries, his title to fame would still be clear. The brilliant skill and self-sacrificing devotion which made him the greatest physician in France of his day would alone keep his memory green. Physician, linguist, scholar, diplomat, writer, teacher, religieux and prophet, his life touched all phases of Renaissance thought and activity from the hovels of France, where he fought the plague, to the court of the Valois, where he was honored beyond any seer in history.

The Book of Joel, which seems to have made a strong impression upon Nostradamus, contains within its grim forecast the lovely, well-known passage:

"and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." Nostradamus was the greatest of

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all who since Biblical ages have given to these words the substance of fulfillment. And perhaps his life was prelusive to the "clear seeing" which may be the glory of the coming age.

The major facts of the life of Nostradamus are known and fully attested. Much confusion, however, exists concerning a number of biographical details. Such questions as which one of the prophet's grandfathers it was who educated him, what was the year of his second marriage, and which of his sons was the eldest born are matters of conflicting opinion. Some commentators have assumed that his son, César, was born in 1555 simply because Nostradamus dedicated his prophecies to him in that year. It is impossible to find out the exact truth about these and other discrepancies because of the loss or destruction of old documents which would provide the proof. In such instances, the author has chosen from old accounts the story which has seemed in her opinion to be best supported by inference and available evidence.

The fictional treatment employed to present certain incidents is used in an attempt to give more vitality to the faded colors of time, but each has underlying facts or substantial inference. There is one exception to this, the attributed purpose in the writing of the Centuries. Other commentators besides the author believe, however, that this theory is true. It agrees with what is known of the prophet's character and type of mind, and is supported by indications from within the prophecies.

L. M.

June 1941

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