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Science v sorcery: the risky business of predicting the future

By Sasha Uzunov - posted Friday, 22 May 2009

It will be 40 years this August since false religious prophet and American cult leader Charles Manson and his followers went on a murder spree in California in a perverted interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Humans throughout history have had an obsession with fortune-telling.

As human beings we have an innate curiosity as to what our future holds. Some seek out psychics; others find guidance in the Bible, Koran, and so on. As I am not a theologian, I will not go into too much detail about the Revelation chapter of the Christian Bible, other than to say it predicts a final showdown at Armageddon, a hill in modern day Israel.

For American mass murderer and cult leader Charles Manson the place for the final showdown was in Los Angeles, California, USA. On August 9, 1969 he and his followers, called The Family, unleashed a short reign of terror in the hope of sparking Helter Skelter, Manson’s evil, racist “prophecy” and a perversion of Revelation.


Helter Skelter, named after a song by 1960s British pop band The Beatles, was a race war between white and black Americans. Manson’s intention was to become a pop star, and like a modern day pied piper, his music would draw young white women away from black men. Manson’s reasoning was that black men, long oppressed by a racist society, were too preoccupied from launching violent revolution because of the sex. If denied, they would then turn their frustration on white society. White society would then retaliate. Out of a sense of guilt, liberal whites and conservative white would subsequently turn on each other, and anyone left standing would be finished off by the Black Panthers, a militant group.

Manson and his followers would ride out the race storm in an underground city in the Californian desert. After the killings stopped, black Americans, not knowing how to a run a civilisation, according to Manson, would then hand over power to him. He would breed a new white race.

When Manson’s music career did not take off, he instructed his followers to kick-start Helter Skelter by going into Los Angeles’s wealthy white neighbourhoods and killing people, and making it appear it was the work of blacks. One of those brutally murdered was pregnant Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, the wife of film director Roman Polanski.

All of us have at one stage read an article or seen a television documentary about 16th century Frenchman Michel Notradame (Nostradamus), who supposedly predicted future events but had to disguise his writings in a cryptic manner to avoid being burnt at the stake as a sorcerer.

Critics say Nostradamus’ predictions have been worded in such a way that they can be interpreted to fit any scenario or simply misused to comply with the latest political trend. Others just call his writings rubbish.

Here’s an example, published in The Complete Prophecies of Nostradamus, edited by Ned Halley, 1999.


A burning flame will appear in the night sky
Near both the source and the estuary of the Rhone
Famine, swords: help will come late
Persia turns and invades Macedonia.

Halley’s interpretation:

No doubt about the last line Persia, now Iran, reverses history by avenging its destruction by the Macedonian giant of history. Alexander the Great burnt Persepolis in a drunken fit in 330BC. Macedonia is now an unstable former republic of the Yugoslav federation. Nostradamus predicts that the country will submit itself to the Muslim faith, and that conflicts elsewhere in Europe will deny aid against the invader.

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About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.

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