In the run-up to the Millennium, Doomsday predictions are rife. People are becoming seriously worried that some sort of world-wide disaster will hit at or around the beginning of the year 2000. All sorts of prophecies and forecasts are being published, all of them gloomy.
So what are the chances of the world coming to an end in the next year or so? Well, take a look at some prophecies that didn’t come to pass:
* The world positively did not end in 172AD, 591AD, 740AD, 1651, 1701, 1843, 1844, 1863, 1900, 1901, 1914, 1969, 1992 or 1998.
* Halley’s Comet did not collide with the Earth in 1984
* A giant meteorite did not devastate Nevada in 1992
* California has never fallen into the sea (not even once!)
* Britain is currently not being ruled by King Charles and Queen Diana
* Two hundred million Chinese have not, so far, swept across Asia and into Central Europe
* The lost continent of Atlantis was not rediscovered in the 1970s
* Al Gore did not become US President in 1993, did not lead UN forces in a war with Iran, did not assume world leadership and has yet to reveal himself as the Antichrist
* Pope John-Paul II did not die in 1995, and was not succeeded by a French Pope
* The Antichrist did not convert the Pope from Catholicism in 1995 and destroy the Catholic Church in 1996
* The Soviet Union neither invaded Israel nor took over Turkey
* Britain did not disappear under the sea in 1999
* The Moon did not suddenly shift thousands of miles out of its orbit in June 1999
So, given the track record of Doomsday prophets so far, it would seem there is little cause for panic.
Prophets and losses
Prophets’ success rates are astonishingly low. For instance, I came across a reference to a ‘premonitions bureau’ in New York that, over twelve years, collected some 5,000 predictions; apparently only 49 of them turned out to be accurate. Wanting to find out for myself how accurate these forty-nine premonitions were, I was unable to discover anything more about this organisation; I strongly suspect that if many of those prophecies were precisely on-target (with dates, place-names etc.) then this bureau would still be in existence and we would all know about its successes.
If you make enough predictions, a few will turn out to be reasonably correct simply by chance. If only half the adults in Britain remembered one dream a night, that would be some 20 million dreams remembered; inevitably, one or two of these twenty million night-time visions will resemble some real incident that happens a day or two later. And take that “I have this feeling that I must not go on this train/bus/plane” feeling that most of us have at one time or other; again, sheer chance is likely to dictate that at some time, a train/bus/plane will crash just after some person who was about to board it had obeyed this premonition.
But, even given this chance effect, it is still astonishing how few predictions turn out to be right. Out of the many hundreds I came across in researching this article, only one prediction, the precise (to the month and year) date of the breakup of the Soviet Union, was correct (it was published in an astrology book in 1981).
On investigation, practically all the other so-called accurate predictions turned out to have been anything but. Either they were published after the event or were so vague that they could be applied to almost anything. To quote a few: “X had a vivid dream showing every detail of the disaster hours before it occurred”; “This was foretold in an ancient manuscript kept in a locked room inside the Vatican”; “These amazing writings were carefully preserved and passed down through five generations of a Yugoslavian family”; “God’s light will be seen in the clouds between 1958 and 1998”; “The world will be in horrible turmoil by the turn of the century”; “There will be a plane crash in the second half of the year – America will be involved”.
The quatrains of Nostradamus are especially prone to this. Written in an obscure French dialect, filled with codes, anagrams and Latin phrases, and with almost no dates or names clearly given, they can and have been interpreted in almost any manner. Take the famous ‘Eclipse’ quatrain, Quatrain 72 of Century 10, which is claimed by practically every writer on Nostradamus to refer to events surrounding the August 1999 solar eclipse:
“L’an mil cens nonante neuf sept mois
Du ciel viendra grand Roy deffraieur
Reusciter le grand Roy d’Angolmois.
Anuant apres Mars regener par bon heur.”
Now there is no dispute about the translation of the first line. It clearly translates as “The year 1999 and seven months”. But, where is the reference to an eclipse? And isn’t August the eighth month anyway? As an astrologer, Nostradamus made quite frequent references to planetary conjunctions and movements; also, it was possible in his time to predict the dates of eclipses several centuries in advance with fair accuracy. So why didn’t he specifically mention this eclipse? Additionally, he was writing at a time when the year started on March 25th and when the Julian Calendar (some ten or eleven days behind our modern Gregorian calendar) was being observed, so his ‘seventh month’ might well be our September or October. Or, as an astrologer, he could have been referring to Libra, the seventh astrological ‘month – September/October, again. Or the number seven could have held some occult or alchemical significance to him that is lost to us today. This illustrates just some of the difficulties in interpreting Nostradamus.
It has been suggested that he wrote in a deliberately coded style to avoid attracting the interest of the Catholic Inquisition. This might be relevant if all of his predictions were about events within his era (as some researchers have argued). But why would he be worried that the Inquisition would be interested in a prediction that would not be fulfilled for centuries? And what of the other three lines? They are not so easily translated. Just three of the many interpretations are:
“A great terrifying leader will come through the skies to revive the great conqueror of Anglouleme. Before and after, war will rule luckily.”
“From the skies shall come an alarmingly powerful king, to raise again the great King of Jaquerie. Before and after, Mars will reign again at will.”
“From the sky will come the great King of Terror. He will bring back to life the great king of the Mongols. Before and after, War reigns happily.”
I will leave it to readers to decide which of these translations best fit the events of August (or July, or September, or October) 1999.
A further difficulty with Nostradamus is that over the centuries, many of his quatrains were forged or doctored to favour some ruler or country. This happened especially during the Second World War, when both the Germans and the British produced dozens of bogus quatrains, some of which are still appearing in books about Nostradamus. So, altogether, the writings of Michel Nostradamus, although fascinating, cannot really be taken as a blueprint for history.
2012 and all that
So what of the future? Now that it is fairly obvious that the more spectacularly unpleasant end-of-the-world scenarios will not come to pass before midnight on December 31st 1999, there is a popular idea that the ancient Mayans forecast the end of the world for 21st December 2012.
This is a misconception – the Mayans never predicted anything, least of all the “end of the world”. They constructed their calender in a series of ever-larger cycles (so many days made a tun, so many tuns made a katun, so many katuns made a baktun etc.), in much the same was as we construct our calender in months, years, centuries and millennia. Just as our year 2000 marks the end of a thousand-year cycle, the 2012 date is the end of a Mayan cycle (of 13 baktuns) as measured from the start of the Mayan calender in 3114BC – the Mayans considered that this date was the start of Creation, so the end of such a major cycle would have been considered important by them. But it would not have been seen as the end of the world, as they had even larger calendrical cycles – the largest stretched to 63 million years!
Headlines from the future
Here is a list of some other world predictions, culled from a wide variety of sources, made for the year 2000 and later:
* 2000:The Earth’s axis will shift, producing floods, eruptions, earthquakes, disasters etc.
* A military coup takes place in the USA
* China invades the Middle East
* Iran will become a nuclear power
* China abandons Communism
* There will be a radical change of government in Sweden
* In January, President Chirac of France will announce his resignation
* 16th January – The death of the last human being (on an Earth pulverised by a gigantic meteor strike on the previous December 26th)
* In the Spring, Queen Elizabeth will announce that Prince William will be the next monarch.
* 4th May – A major planetary line-up will produce earthquakes, disasters etc.
* In the Summer, the Balkan mini-states will be absorbed into the European Union
* The US will establish a physical presence in Iraq between February and August
* By August, Pope John-Paul II’s successor will die in office
* By September, the United Nations will be no more
* September 17th – The Messiah will appear
The rest of the century:
* 2001 – Beginning of the Age of Aquarius. A major space expedition will be put together. Australia declares independence from Britain. Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state of the USA.
* 2002 – New Zealand achieves independence.
* 2003 – North and South Korea will begin reunification.
* 2004 – Beings from outer space will land openly in the US. By April, the last Pope will die or resign and the Catholic Church will cease to exist. A comet passes within one million miles of Earth, producing earthquakes, disasters etc.
* 2005 – The first manned expedition to Mars. Unification of all the Islamic countries.
* 2006 – End of the world.
* 2008 – The World Government will come into being.
* 2010 – Beginning of the Age of Aquarius. War between Britain and France. Four world leaders are assassinated.
* 2011 – A new World War begins. A unique computer vaccine is used on humans. The portal to the 4th dimension that opened on 11th January 1992 at 11:11am closes; those who have failed to pass through will all die.
* 2012 – 21st December – End of the wotld.
* 2013 – An asteroid three times the size of Jupiter will pass very close to the Earth, producing earthquakes, disasters etc.
* 2017 – A queen is monarch in Britain.
* 2020 – Beginning of the Age of Aquarius.
* 2021 – 21st January – End of the world.
* 2022 – Two nuclear plants melt down in Florida.
* 2023 – Beginning of the Age of Aquarius.
* 2025 – The creation of the World Federation of Nations. The collapse of civilisation worldwide.
* 2027 – A world dictator will come to power.
* 2031 – The Vatican will move to Germany.
* 2034 – The Messiah will appear in the skies.
* 2035 – The secret of eternal life is discovered.
* 2036 – “A great dictator will rule Britain.”
* 2040 – The Messiah will descend to Earth. A large meteor will hit the American town of Spokane.
* 2049 – An entirely new form of energy is discovered.
* 2059 – Life is discovered on another planet.
* 2060 – Beginning of the Age of Aquarius. Italy becomes an Islamic country.
* 2081 – Spain will dominate Europe.
So there you have it – the chronicles of the 21st Century! We’ll leave the last word to Winston Churchill: “You know, I always avoid prophesying beforehand. It is much better policy to prophesy after the event has taken place.”
Note: the list of prophecies above were collected from a variety of sources; alas, I kept no notes of which came from where! And the paragraph on the Mayan 2012 prophecy has been rewritten and expanded since the original publication. – Val Dobson