Of the various forms of psiosis out there, clairvoyant prophet seems to be one of the worst, at least looking back through history it looks that way; those famous for their prophetic visions have suffered greatly for their gifts.
Nostradamus, born Michel de Nostradame (December 14 or 21, 1503 – June 2, 1556, records of his birth are difficult to validate) and Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) to name two.
Though their experiences were drastically different, both men suffered in their own way, seemingly at the weight of their own prophecies. Nostradamus lived in difficult times; religious turmoil surrounded him, as it was as much a part of life then, as taxes and pop music are for us. Edgar Cayce’s life was more comfortable than Nostradamus; he had the comforts of the industrial revolution, not to mention the benefits of advanced germ theory medicine to protect him from disease.
While Nostradamus worked feverishly to hide his gifts, concealing his predictions into more than 1000 quatrain poems, the contents of which are so difficult to translate that they cannot be agreed upon by the best linguists in the world to this day, Cayce propped his gift up under stage lights and on séance tables.
Both men were infamous for their austere eccentricities, and both men were criticized for their apparently misplaced loyalties. One thing runs true for most psychics, and that is the call of the sceptic. To be called a fraud, to be criticized for simply revealing your thoughts, that is a prison from which a person cannot escape. Cayce found refuge in glorifying everything that was wrong with the Surrealist movement of the late 19th and early 20thcenturies, he no doubt swindled a great many widows of their last few pennies, all for the service of allowing them to commune with their late husbands.
Nostradamus, however, internalised his struggle, he hid away from the world and made every effort to keep his ability a secret; though a man who makes accurate predictions of the unknown future, scarcely remains on the sidelines. By the time Nostradamus lost his family to the black plague, he had already been accused of heresy by the church and was facing a threat to his life by religious fundamentalists (though who in those days wasn’t a fundamentalist). His surviving the plague, even though he stood beside as his family passed on, fed fuel to the already kindled holy fire, and he sought to remove the witches mark from his forehead.
It might seem that these two men wore completely different cloaks, but below the surface they suffered the same affliction, to know the future, and to be ill-equipped to interpret their visions in the terms of the historical world in which they lived.
Imagine for a moment, that you are a 14th century doctor turned spiritual healer, you live in a time of technological infancy, electricity is unheard of, indoor plumbing is a luxury for the super-wealthy and superstition, based on religious dogma is the single motivator for nearly all public and private behaviour. Now imagine that, in that environment, you’re plagued with visions of a time when buildings grow as tall as mountains – shining mountains of steel and glass (a material used mainly in the windows of churches in your time), mountains that sparkle with a million candle lights across their face – a time when wars and famine and disease run rampant across half the globe. A time when religious persecution has reached its pinnacle of malevolence and the atrocities committed in the name of the one true God are brutal and completely bereft of mercy.
Consider the contrast between those two worlds, between that antiquated era of Victorian principle and simplicity, and the complex, subjective and alien profile of the modern global culture. If you were that 14th century faith healer, struck by images and visions of a world so drastically different than anything your wildest dreams could have concocted, how would you interpret what lay before your minds eye?
Would you see apocalypse? Would you see Armageddon? Would you see a technological utopia for some and a hellish nightmare of existence for others? Or do you think that your pre-industrial revolution mind could comprehend the strangeness that is our world, compared to that of Nostradamus?
The mere fact that this man was able to translate even a portion of what his gift showed him, is a testament to his advanced cognitive abilities, and the fact that his quatrains were encrypted suggests that even though he feared persecution from the superstitious mobs, he did understand the meaning behind the visions.
Edgar Cayce was no stranger to superstitious persecution either, though his Hollywood-esque spotlight gave him the unlikely cover of popularity to shield him from accusation (for the most part). His time was much closer to the ecumenical melting pot of today, the industrial revolution was at hand, and the daily trials of his time were more like our alien lives than that of Nostradamus.
Cayce though, suffered for his gifts in a more physical manner. Some have suggested that his act was pure prestidigitation and nothing more than the snake oil of a travelling quack. Cayce’s global popularity didn’t reach acceptance until after his death, but through his “readings, he was known to suffer serious headaches and what could be described as neural trauma. He became known as the “Sleeping Prophet” as his readings became so draining that he began to adopt a trance-like state, and would dictate his prophecies to a personal assistant / secretary while he lay prostrate on a nearby couch.
So the question is begged, was the hardship of each man the fruit of their psychic labour, or were they victim to their place in history and their own eccentricities?
Both men are now renowned in paranormal circles, each is revered by his respective camp of fans and followers, some believing so forcefully as to create political pressure in Western Governments over the nature and detail of their predictions.
Edgar Cayce and Michel de Nostradame were pioneers, each in their own right, and none since made such an impact on popular culture. Each man held his own demons and eventually succumbed to the one event that needs no prediction. It still seems to me that both were prisoners of their gifts, and I’ll declare that, given the choice, I would rather do without their particular gift.