Golitsyn received CIA’s permission to publish his manuscript in book form, and did so in 1984. But at the time his predictions were made, Sovietologists had little use for Golitsyn or his ‘new methodology for the study of the communist world.’ For the man who had once been ridiculed at CIA’s famous ‘Flat Earth Conference’ for claiming that the Sino-Soviet split was false, it must have seemed yet another classic case of ‘They all laughed at Christopher Columbus.’Mark Riebling, 1994
The future may be described as an “undiscovered country” gradually revealed by time. However, an occasional Christopher Columbus comes along to trace the vague outline of unknown future continents. And yes, there have been true discoverers and discoveries; some were made by seers, some by auspices, some by scholarly prognosticators and, strangely, some were made by KGB spies.
Nearly everyone has heard of the French physician, Michel de Nostradamus (1503-1566), whose obscure quatrains were written in an archaic French. He allegedly saw the future by staring into a water-filled copper bowl. Of his more famous predictions, he came to the Queen’s attention by foretelling the death of Henry II, King of France. He also predicted the year of the Great Fire of London in 1666, and wrote several quatrains suggestive of Napoleon’s reign, foretelling that France “will have chosen badly in the cropped one”:
An Emperor shall be born near Italy
Who shall cost the Empire dear
When it is seen with whom he allies himself
He shall be found less a prince than a butcher.
The man with cropped hair shall assume authority
In a maritime city held by the enemy
He shall expel the vile men who oppose him
And for 14 years will rule with absolute power
The captive prince, conquered, to Elba
He will pass the Gulf of Genoa by sea to Marseilles
He is completely conquered by a great effort of foreign forces….
Will end his life far from where he was born
Among 5,000 people of strange customs and language
On a chalky island in the sea.
The interpretation follows: Napoleon was born near Italy, on Corsica. Unlike the kings of France, Napoleon cropped his hair. His first military victory was in 1793 when he captured the city of Toulon, a Mediterranean port. He became the ruler of France, expelling the Directory. And yes, he ruled for 14 years, was exiled to Elba from whence he passed the Gulf of Genoa, landed at Marseilles and was defeated by foreign forces at Waterloo. Napoleon ended his life on the island of St. Helena, in the South Atlantic, far from the place of his birth. Although St. Helena is not a “chalky” island, it is a British island – and the British isles are chalky (i.e., the white cliffs of Dover).
Some have argued that Nostradamus’s prophecies are too vague; that anyone who writes a thousand quatrains is going to come up with plausible predictions over several centuries. Yet some of Nostradamus’s predictions are too exact to dismiss out of hand. He inexplicably named leading figures of the French Revolution. He named the Spanish dictator Franco, predicted the rise of America and its rebellion against “the isles.” He predicted his own death and asked that no one disturb his grave. When his coffin was opened to move his remains to a different site in 1700, a metal plaque was found resting on his skeleton. On it was inscribed the date – “1700.”
Browsing in a bookstore forty years ago, I came across a collector’s item: The Book of Predictions, published by the People’s Almanac. I bought the book and kept it for later reference. It is now amusing to see the many bad predictions made by “experts.” For example, one expert predicted that by 1999 the U.S. Government would move from Washington, D.C. to Minneapolis. There were several wrongheaded predictions about crippling oil shortages, a coming revolution in solar power, global food shortages, environmental degradation resulting in widespread degenerative diseases. There were also predictions about near-Earth asteroid mining, orbital power stations, global disarmament, limitations on passenger car use, global economic collapse, the destruction of California through major earthquakes, etc. None of these predictions came to pass within the time-frames given.
Of course, The Book of Predictions got a few good hits; but overall, the book shows how mistaken experts can be. Yet there have been experts who saw the future with perfect clarity. American Army Air Force Brigadier General Billy Mitchell famously warned that a future war between America and Japan would begin with a Japanese air and submarine attack on Pearl Harbor. He was right, of course; but his career ended in a court-martial.
Military prognostication is very tricky, and few have done it successfully. The ancient Romans, who conquered the Mediterranean world, didn’t trust the foresight of their commanders whatsoever. Roman generals were subject to auspices – to irregularities found in the entrails of sacrificial animals, or to the behavior of birds. In terms of prognostication, a Roman general might be outranked by sacred chickens. Such was the situation of a Roman Consul, Publius Claudius, in the First Punic War. Commanding a fleet in 249 B.C, he devised a clever plan of surprise attack which met with the enthusiasm of his officers. But when the sacred chickens refused to eat, the attack could not go forward. Claudius wasn’t happy, so he ordered the sacred chickens thrown into the sea. “If they won’t eat,” he said, “they will have to drink.” According to Cicero, “this jest was followed by a defeat at sea which cost [Claudius] many tears and Rome many lives.”
Having no sacred chickens to restrain our latter-day consuls (Biden and Harris), we are left with chickens of an altogether less sacred stripe (i.e., the Republicans). Judging by these, we have lost the art of augury altogether. But America’s leaders were not without insight in bygone days. There is a well-documented account of Abraham Lincoln having a precognitive dream in which he foresaw his own assassination.
Aside from auspices and dreams, famous leaders have also experienced apparitions. In classical literature, we find that famous scene – also related in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – of an apparition that haunted Marcus Brutus before the Battle of Philippi. According to a passage in Plutarch’s Lives, Brutus was up “very late all alone in his tent, with a dim light burning by him, all the rest of the camp being hushed and silent … he fancied someone came in, and, looking up towards the door, he saw a terrible and strange appearance of an unnatural and frightful body standing … without speaking.” On seeing the ill-omened being, Brutus boldly challenged it: “What are you, of men or gods, and upon what business come to me?” The apparition answered, “I am your evil genius, Brutus; you shall see me at Philippi.” Brutus gave a matter-of-fact reply, “Then I shall see you.” There followed a series of evil omens – birds of prey in the camp, swarms of bees, an emblem of victory accidentally turned upside down. Of course, Brutus lost the battle and was killed.
And what about astrology in Roman times? The historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus wrote of an accurate prediction made by the Emperor Tiberius while addressing the young Galba: “You, too, Galba, shall one day have a taste of empire.” According to Tacitus, “This prophecy of Galba’s late, brief principate was based on Tiberius’ knowledge of Chaldean astrology, taught him at Rhodes by Thrasyllus.” Yet the strangest story of all was the manner in which Tiberius went about hiring astrologers before he became emperor. “When seeking occult guidance,” noted Tacitus, “Tiberius would retire to the top of his house, with a single tough, illiterate former slave as confidant. Those astrologers whose skill Tiberius had decided to test were escorted to him by this man over pathless, precipitous ground; for the house overhung a cliff. Then, on their way down, if they were suspected of unreliability or fraudulence, the ex-slave hurled them into the sea below, so that no betrayer of the secret proceedings should survive.” Indeed, Thrasyllus could only have become Tiberius’ trusted astrologer by passing this most difficult of tests. Not only did Thrasyllus reveal Tiberius’ imperial destiny, but the astrologer knew in what danger he stood when asked about his own horoscope. He trembled and admitted his life was in danger at that very moment. Tiberius then embraced and protected Thrasyllus thereafter.
One might think that such stories belong only to the ancient world; that Renaissance men could never be so superstitious. One has only to turn the pages of Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy to find the following heading: “Before Great Misfortunes Befall a City or a Province they are preceded by Portents or foretold by Men.” Machiavelli affirmed the veracity of portents and visions. He said that “no serious misfortune ever befalls a city or a province that has not been predicted either by divination or revelation or by prodigies or by other heavenly signs.”
In more recent times, one of the founders of modern psychology, Dr. Carl Jung, recounted an extraordinary precognitive dream. According to Jung, “It happened in October of the year 1913…” He was leaving for a journey when, during the day, he was “suddenly overcome in broad daylight by a vision.” He saw “a terrible flood that covered all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. It reached from England up to Russia….” The flood was not an ordinary one. “I saw yellow waves, swimming rubble, and the death of countless thousands,” wrote Jung, who added, “it confused me and made me ill. I was not able to interpret it.” Two weeks later this “vision” returned, depicting greater violence than before. Jung feared for his sanity. On a later occasion he saw “a sea of blood over the northern lands.” Less than a year later, in 1914, World War I began, claiming millions of lives.
Carl Jung, of course, was not the only classically educated person of his time to write about the future. By the late nineteenth century a number of brilliant thinkers were using antiquity as a mirror or crystal ball, intuiting the future by historical analogy. One finds, for example, in the writings and private letters of the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt, the suggestion that Western civilization is out of balance and headed for a fate more horrible than that of antiquity. In Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, we are told that civilizations grow and die, as do all living beings; that antiquity declined and now it is our turn. In 1896 Gustave Le Bon predicted that socialism would bring great destruction to mankind. In 1909 Guglielmo Ferrero, who wrote about ancient Rome, suggested the West would pass through a series of European wars akin to the Roman civil wars (linked to rising social and economic expectations). In Vilfredo Pareto’s Mind and Society the coming collapse and spoliation of Western civilization was linked to “the circulation of elites” – with manipulative “foxes” destroying society’s natural protectors – the “lions.” In Nietzsche’s notebooks we find an even more chilling prophecy: “What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism.”
These scholars and thinkers, of course, were not always precise in their predictions. Like seers and astrologers, they could be equivocal. Yet there is one prophet, as it were, who was neither imprecise nor equivocal. This person was not a scholar or an astrologer. He was, strangely enough, a KGB spy; and I will argue that he was greater than Nostradamus.
For all that we have so far explained about the future, how could a KGB spy be included with the likes of Nostradamus or a Roman emperor’s Chaldean astrologer? What if I told you that KGB and GRU spies have made many accurate predictions about the future? What if I told you that one particular defector made 148 predictions with an accuracy rating of almost 94 percent?
Well, it happens to be true. KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn wrote a book in 1984, titled New Lies for Old. According to national intelligence historian Mark Riebling, Golitsyn foresaw that the leadership of the Soviet Union would fall to “a younger man with a more liberal image,” who would initiate “changes that would have been beyond the imagination of Marx or the practical reach of Lenin and unthinkable to Stalin.” The coming [Soviet] liberalization, said Golitsyn, “would be spectacular and impressive.” However, the liberalization would be calculated and deceptive. The Communist Party Soviet Union would begin to operate underground, ruling Russia from behind the scenes.
Now here is where it gets spooky. According to Riebling, “Golitsyn provided an entire chapter of … predictions [in his book], containing 194 distinct auguries. Of these, 46 were not falsifiable at the time this book went to press [i.e., 1994] … and another 9 … seemed clearly wrong. Yet of Golitsyn’s falsifiable predictions, 139 out of 148 were fulfilled by the end of 1993 – an accuracy rate of nearly 94 percent.” [See Riebling, p. 407-8.]
What ought to frighten all Americans is that some of the 46 non-falsifiable predictions have begun to come true; for example, Golitsyn’s prediction about the rise of the far left in American politics, the political isolation of anti-communists and conservatives, and a new “McCarthyism of the left” (now clearly visible as we watch Trump’s Senate impeachment trial).
I believe this puts Golitsyn in a higher category than Nostradamus for two reasons. First, Golitsyn did not write obscure predictions in archaic French verse; and second, Golitsyn provided us with insights that dwarf Nostradamus’s trivialities. In fact, Golitsyn told us how the communists planned to take over the United States; and the communists have done almost everything he predicted.
Now that I have talked of other people’s predictions, I’d like to make a prediction of my own. Sometime this year, the Federal Government will demand our guns. In order to facilitate this, some kind of violent provocation will be arranged. It will have to be shocking, bloody – and blamable on right-wing “racists.” I hope I’m wrong about this; but the unconstitutional trial of a private citizen (i.e., Donald Trump) in the United States Senate, without the Chief Justice presiding, without due process of law, is suggestive of what we’re up against.
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Notes and Links
Mark Riebling, Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA (New York, 1994), p. 408.
David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace and Irving Wallace, The Book of Predictions (William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1980). I have borrowed heavily from the book’s text on Nostradamus, especially from page 354.
Cicero, The Nature of the Gods (Penguin, 1972), p. 126.
Stephen B. Oates, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (New York, 1977), pp. 462-463.
Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. John Dryden (Modern Library), pp. 1208-1216.
Tacticus, The Annals of Imperials Rome (Penguin, 1956), p. 210.
Machiavelli, The Discourses (Penguin Classics), p. 249.
Carl Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus (New York, 2009), pp. 123-4.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, translation by Kaufmann and Hollingdale (New York, 1967), p. 3.
Anatoliy Golitsyn, New Lies for Old: The Communist Strategy of Deception and Disinformation (Dodd, Mead & Company, New York).