Did Nostradamus Predict the World's End in 2012?

Nostradamus Writing
Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images

Does Nostradamus agree with the Mayan calendar about a coming change?

Back in 2011, the History Channel aired a two-hour documentary on the prophecies of Nostradamus and how they might relate to the apocalyptic fears surrounding December, 2012. It was part of a large heap of information, theories, warnings, enlightenment, and anxiety about that date.

I never put much stock in the supposed Mayan prophecy that 2012 would mark the end of the world or even the end of an era.

We've all lived through these gloom-and-doom prophecies countless times? Some predicted May 5, 2000 as doomsday because the planets were in rough alignment. Then there was the hysteria over the millennium and Y2K. And of course various religious cults have named date after date when the world would surely end, all of which came and went without so much as a hiccup.

2012, as we now know, was no different. Certainly, the subject sold a lot of books, drew large audiences for talk radio, and counted up lots of hits on websites, but that's the most drama we got out of 2012. It came and went without a major shift on the planet. Didn't we all really know that deep down?

Those promoting the 2012 changes threw out a wide range of possibilities for what might happen - everything from a literal end of the world, to dramatic social, economic, political, and climatic upheaval, to a "spiritual awakening," which, of course, could mean almost anything.

WHY 2012?

And what was it based on? Primarily, it was based on an ancient Mayan "long count" calendar, carved on stone, which according to calculations ended on December 21, 2012 and marked the end of a 5,126-year era. Without a doubt, the ancient Mayans were remarkable mathematicians and astronomers, but why should we really have taken this "prophecy" seriously?

First of all, it wasn't even a prophecy. It happened to be when their long count calendar ended. Why should that hold any significance for us?

The second reason proponents of this coming apocalypse said it was on its way is that in 2012 there was supposedly an alignment of sorts with the center of our galaxy. Because the Earth wobbles slowly as it rotates (once about every 26,000 years), the sun appeared to rise in alignment with the center of the Milky Way. Interesting, yes, but there seems to be no cosmological evidence of any kind that this would have an effect on our planet, physically, socially, or even spiritually.

The third reason touted is that the sun was scheduled to be at a "solar maximum" in that year, a time when sun spots and solar flares were very active. This kind of activity really can cause problems. Such activity can disable and damage satellites and can have a dramatic effect on the Earth's weather. The schedule was based on past patterns of such activity, but there were no dramatic, out of the ordinary effects in 2012.

STRAINED INTERPRETATIONS

Back to the Nostradamus documentary for a moment. As usual, the Nostradamus experts quoted a selection of his quatrains - those that feature famine, pestilence, war, etc. - and strained to tie them to 2012. Not successfully, in my opinion. The world has always been plagued with famine, pestilence, war, and the rest of it, and I saw no quatrain that even remotely indicated that what Nostradamus was talking about was the year 2012.

Aside from the quatrains, the documentary focused mainly on the so-called "Lost Book of Nostradamus," which was discovered in a modern library in Rome in 1994. Dating to 1629, the manuscript, filled the bright watercolor drawings, is titled Nostradamus Vatinicia Code and has on the inside the name Michel de Notredame as the author. First of all, although this "lost book" is thought by some to be the work of Nostradamus, there is no definitive proof or scholarly consensus that he was actually the author; some experts have serious doubts. So to make this book the platform for this documentary put it on very shaky ground.

And then the lengths to which the talking heads on the show reached and strained to connect the drawings to 2012 was positively ludicrous. For example, the drawing of a sword, held pointing up and around which is looped a banner or scroll (see illustration above) - this was interpreted as the sun's alignment with the galactic center in 2012.

Really? The other drawings were likewise twisted and mangled to fit the interpretations needed for the argument. We all know that we can take such enigmatic drawings - and quatrains - and interpret them to fit virtually any scenario that we want.

WHY ALL THE FUSS?

Why were some people obsessed with 2012 (apart from its marketing aspects)?

Why are they continually obsessed with apocalypse and the end of the world? Why is it always seen as right around the corner?

I think the answer is that we both fear and want great change. As wonderful as the world can be, it is, as noted earlier, continually plagued by war, economic difficulties, famine, and climate shifts. This stuff is not new. They are continuing problems that ebb and flow on the planet. While we fear that it's going to get worse (and it certainly can get worse), at the same time we have the hope that it's going to get better. We fear the catastrophes of an apocalypse, yet we hope for that spiritual awakening that will save us from our own human nature.

I'm no Nostradamus, but back in 2011 I made this safe prediction about 2012: The world will continue on pretty much as it has in the past. There would be dire problems and there would be great joys. Perhaps some problems would get a bit worse than they are right now, but there would be no earth-shattering catastrophe. If there was to be a spiritual awakening, it wouldn't be on a planetary or mass scale through some unspecified miracle, as some hope, it would be as individuals. (But that has nothing to do with 2012.) Today, all that hoopla around December, 2012 is all but forgotten -- but it's actually worth remembering the next time such predictions are made...

and they will be.

Prophecies or not, the best we can ever shoot for is that as individuals we do our best to make our own small fragments of the Earth better places. This has always been the case and ever shall be.