The Mask of Nostradamus by James Randi Essay

The Mask of Nostradamus by James Randi Essay

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James Randi is an internationally acclaimed stage magician, author, and skeptic. He is well known for investigating the claims of alleged psychics and mystics in such books as The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. His television appearances on The Tonight Show and Exploring Psychic Powers… Live often featured him debunking the alleged psychic powers of other guests. As a stage magician, he has perfected ‘mentalist’ skills, techniques used by the charlatan Nostradamus. For his stage magic and his support of skepticism, Randi has received a Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Humanist Association, a Lifetime Fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts, and an In Praise of Reason award from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
In The Mask of Nostradamus, James Randi encompasses the famous seer’s life through the use of three different lenses: the man’s predictions, his fellow ‘prophets’, and his professional life.
The Seer of Provence, Nostradamus, has a long-lasting legacy as a successful prophet. Nostradamus produced an enormous volume of prophetic work, much of which has been lost or bastardized. The author clarifies the man Nostradamus by examining his surviving works, avoiding spurious interpretation in favor of evidence-based analysis.
A fine example of Randi’s analysis is his examination of Nostradamus’ “Quatrain V-LVII”. He describes first the interpretations of earlier, less rigorous, scholars—a common claim is that this quatrain predicts the invention of the hot air balloon. He discusses the ‘ridiculous anagram’ produced by the method of an earl...


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...amount of rational analysis and fact checking that Randi presents. This is how he describes his position on the subject:
I must declare frankly that I have no belief in the popularly held notion that Nostradamus or anyone else ever had or now has any supernatural prophetic powers. My rather considerable professional experience and common sense dictate against such a belief, but I will always yield to facts and probabilities that oppose my admitted yet understandable prejudice when those facts are properly derived and set forth. (148)
Randi is an admirable crusader against nonsense. I recommend The Mask of Nostradamus to anyone who appreciates ruthless skepticism, a charming writing style, and incisive analytical skill.


Works Cited

Citation: Randi, James. The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World's Most Famous Seer. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1993. Print.

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