Nostradamus: A Healer of Souls in the Renaissance
November 2017, Polity
One of the most enigmatic figures in history, Nostradamus – apothecary, astrologer and soothsayer – is a continual source of fascination. Indeed, his predictions are so much the stock-in-trade of the wildest merchants of imminent Doom that one could be forgiven for ignoring the fact that Michel de Nostredame, 1503-1566, was a figure firmly rooted in the society of the French Renaissance.
In this bold new account of the life and work of Nostradamus, Denis Crouzet shows that any attempt to interpret his Prophecies at face value is misguided. Nostradamus was not trying to predict the future. He saw himself, rather, as 'prophesying', i.e. bringing the Word of God to humankind. In a century marked by the extreme violence of the Wars of Religion, Nostradamus' profound Christian faith placed him among the 'evangelicals' of his generation. Rejecting the confessional tensions tearing Europe apart, he sought to coax his readers towards an interiorised piety, based on the essential presence of Christ. Like Rabelais, for whom laughter was a therapy to help one cope with the misery of the times, Nostradamus saw himself as a physician of the soul as much as of the body. His unveiling of the menacing and horrendous events which await us in the future was a way of frightening his readers into the realisation that inner hatred was truly the greatest peril of all, to which the sole remedy was to live in the love and peace of Christ.
This inspired interpretation penetrates the imaginative world of Nostradamus, a man whose life is as mysterious as his writings. It shows him in a completely new dimension, securing for him a significant place among the major thinkers of the Renaissance.
Introduction. Fragments of History
1. The Place Beyond Words
2. A Self-Contradictory Utterance
3. Treasures Beneath an Oak Tree
4. A Would-Be Astrophile
5. Thresholds Dependant on Subjectivity
6. An Evangelist Cogito
7. For the Common Profit of Mankind
8. A Burning Mirror
9. Divine Light
10. From the All to the One
11. The Word of Creation
12. An Episteme of Reason
13. Sacredness and Nothingness
14. The Energetics of Obscurity
15. Powers of Evil
16. Man Against Man
17. All the Sins of the World
18. The Horror that Invites Horror
19. Faith: Trial and Tribulations
20. From Alpha to Omega
21. The Philology of Angst
22. The Panic Paradox
23. The Eschataology of the Rainbow
24. The Ontological Turn
25. Liberty in Christ
By Way of Conclusion: Why Nostradamus?
Sources and Bibliography
Peter Burke, University of Cambridge
"In this very subtle and thought-provoking book Denis Crouzet makes sense of Nostradamus precisely by accepting his deliberate obscurity. The extraordinary violence and disquieting imagery of his quatrains can be compared with the paintings of Bosch, portraying a world turned upside down where sin and cruelty presage divine punishment. Crouzet skillfully weaves this into a broader understanding of the spiritual and emotional imaginary of the Reformation era, when all old certainties seemed to be melting down, amidst terrifying human savagery."
Robin Briggs, All Souls College, University of Oxford