Taken less and less seriously with each passing year, John Hogue seems to have been a part of every single show about Nostradamus that I have ever seen. You may remember Nostradamus from documentaries that are shown on such channels as Discovery, History, and The Learning Channel – thus solidifying each in the science hall of shame. (To Discovery’s credit, they did once air a show entitled Nostradamus: A Skeptical Inquiry which incensed Hogue enough to write an open letter to the director.)
Recently my waning tolerance of Hogue finally came to a head. I can’t say for sure what set it off. Perhaps it was his promotion that Nostradamus had predicted 9/11 (more on this later). Perhaps it’s the way he refers to himself as a “rogue scholar”. Suffice it to say I’d had enough. I suppose I shouldn’t be worried about someone who’s so culturally irrelevant he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but the sheer volume of books and television programs featuring Hogue warrants a discussion of him and Nostradamus.
If you believe the shows you see on TV, Hogue is the only person in the world who knows anything about Nostradamus. When a show about Nostradamus starts, it’s a fun game to guess how long it will take for Hogue’s funny hat and long beard to appear. Now, IMDb has Hogue listed in only 3 documentaries, so I’m not sure if it’s that he’s had bit parts in several documentaries and news programs that weren’t credited in his IMDb listing or if they simply keep airing the same 3 documentaries on TV over and over and over and over again. Either way, I find whenever Nostradamus comes up, it’s only a matter of time before Hogue peeks around the corner to pipe in about some quatrain or other. According to Hogue’s website, he appears on the radio frequently, as well.
James Randi, personal hero, seems to like Hogue just about as much as I do. He discusses Hogue briefly in his online glossary entry for Nostradamus and has referred to Hogue as a “Nostradamian”. Penn & Teller (forever represented as a pair with an ampersand instead of “and”) also featured Hogue in a non-too-flattering light on their Bullshit! episode entitled “End of the World” where they discussed some of Nostradamus’ predictions. The reason for the open hostility and ridicule towards Hogue, I think, comes from the fact that he’s not a simple everyday Nostradamian – he presents the prophecies not as an interesting historical sidebar, but as fact.
Another reason to be annoyed with Hogue is his tendency to present the quatrains of Nostradamus as if his interpretation is the standard accepted version. This combined with the sheer volume of literature that he has promoted on the subject leads to a general acceptance of his voice as the voice of Nostradamus himself. This is a problem considering the heavy revisions that he has made to his books over the years when predictions that he has made turned out not to come true. As Randi discusses on Bullshit! with books in hand, Hogue had decided in Nostradamus and the Millennium that Nostradamus indicated the anti-christ as Ayatollah Khomeini, but when AM died he reprinted his book and updated the anti-christ to be Saddam Hussein. Now that he’s dead too, I wonder what the next edition will say… My vote is on Osama bin Laden, but he might already be too old school and I’m thinking Hogue’s publishers might want to avoid a 4th reprint.
Ok enough ad hominem arguments about Hogue. Let’s get to how he’s making these little “predictions” and interpretations of Nostradamus’ poems…ahem, sorry, prophecies. First, we have to remember that Nostradamus wrote poems. The insistence on using the word “quatrain” instead of “stanza” gives the air of elegance and mystery to something that’s just a freaking poem. Quatrain means “4-lined stanza”. It doesn’t mean “accurate prediction.”
These poems are interpreted in several ways:
– First, they were written in French, so they are often translated into English. Anyone who is bilingual will realize there can often be certain subtle meanings lost in this step alone. Moving on.
– Second, the vague metaphors have to he interpreted into literal events.
– Third, the details have to be matched up to real-life world events. Note that these events are matched up after they have already occurred, so the prophecies serve no useful purpose in stopping any major atrocities and don’t serve to enrich our lives. For example: “Wow, we could totally have stopped that horrible thing from happening if only we had interpreted Nostradamus correctly beforehand.” Yeah, that feels awesome.
And those are the most acceptable of the steps of interpretation. Some much less acceptable steps include:
– The practice of using either French or English words in the prediction depending on which suits the situation better.
– You can apparently replace letters with other letters if need be or reverse words. For example, with the anti-christ business, MABUS was reversed to make SUBAM. He then “replaced” the U to be SABAM, which of course equals SADDAM. There you go. Anti-christ. ??? He also makes MABUS into WABUS by upturning the M and pronounces the S as SH to make W. BUSH. I guess the “George” not being there isn’t an issue. So in Hogues own interpretation he has demonstrated that anyone can make anything out of a single word. Let me try one. MABUS = PARUS which obviously refers to PARIS. OMG, Paris Hilton is the anti-christ!!! Ridiculous.
– Making shit up entirely (and it’s not even really that noticeable).
– Mixing up several different quatrains to fit an event.
Now one of Nostradamus’ most famous predictions: 9/11. (Note that Hogue himself cannot entirely shoulder the blame for this disgusting and manipulative piece of shit, as many Nostradamus enthusiasts participated in this one, but he has presented this on TV as if it were fact and for that I can’t let him slide.) The poem goes like this:
- Cinq & quarante degrés ciel bruslera,
- Feu approucher de la grand cité neufve,
- Instant grand flamme esparse saultera,
- Quant on voudra des Normans faire preuve:
Which is translated as:
- Five and forty degrees, the sky shall burn:
- To great ‘New City’ shall the fire draw nigh.
- With vehemence the flames shall spread and churn
- When with the Normans they conclusions try.
I guess if he were talking about New York he should have written it this way:
- Zero point five and forty degrees, the buildings shall burn:
- To great ‘New York City’ shall the planes draw nigh.
- The flames shall weaken and collapse the buildings
- It was Muslim extremists, go arrest them.
Well it doesn’t rhyme, but at least it’s accurate. Hogue says about the 5 and 40 business “He’s a little off there.” Um, ya think? I live around 45 degrees latitude and it’s nowhere near New York City, which is at 40.5. It should be noted that many Nostradamus interpreters say that “New City” is Villeneuve-sur-Lot in France (ville = city, neuve = new) which is located near 45 degrees latitude. Naples also means “new city”, but is also located around 40 degrees latitude. The latitude discussion is important to note as it demonstrates again how one phrase can be interpreted several ways depending on the motivations of the reader and their knowledge of basic geography.
There are various real-life events that the Nostradamus crowd has claimed that he predicted, with as many being debunked by those who bother to look into it. Many of these predictions have been promoted by Hogue on various documentaries and in various books. Hogue seems to be using Nostradamus to promote his own ideas and predictions in a public forum. It makes sense. It takes the marketing powers of Sylvia Browne to get enough street cred so that your own name is enough to sell books. So Hogue uses Nostradamus’ familiar handle to avoid that little snag.
Frankly I find the practice of misinterpreting, manipulating, and promoting the garbled results of Nostradamus’ work just as disingenuous and destructive as what the likes of John Edward, Silvia Browne, and James van Praagh do on a regular basis. Predicting the future has inherent philosophical implications including ideas like fate and free will. The obvious conclusion is that the 3000 or so people that died on 9/11 were fated to die and Nostradamus predicted it but didn’t think well enough about the event to write clearly and succinctly such that we’d be adequately warned and could take appropriate steps to avoid as many casualties as possible. I mean, even if you say the event was fated to happen because he described it, he didn’t say how many died so what if we had simply been able to evacuate the buildings, for example?
Well, I suppose it’s ok that Nostradamus was vague and French because we have the tireless John Hogue to tell us what he meant, and surely Hogue wouldn’t be victim to the same biases, ambitions, and translational errors as the rest of humanity…. Right? Riiiiiight. [The internet seriously needs an international sign for sarcasm.] If Hogue can simply change letters, reverse words, and mix quatrains enough to make them read the way he wants them to, what’s the use of referencing the original Nostradamian text as the source? If I ever for some reason want to learn about Nostradamus’ poems, I’ll go read the original French poems for myself; not a bastardized English translation that could have been written by any nut job that wants them to read a certain way. I’m not that into poetry though, so it’s unlikely. And I don’t need them to know that vague arrangements of metaphors that can be interpreted in any way I want are ultimately useless. I just wish assholes like Hogue would keep that shit to themselves and stop promoting paranoid poems as factual prophecies.