Egyptian History and
Cosmic Catastrophe - The Ideas of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky was one of
the twentieth century's great scholars. He sought to solve a mystery
and in the process generated enormous controversy in the fields of
archaeology, astronomy and cosmology. The attack by many members of
the scientific community on his work, their attempts to intimidate
his publisher and suppress his evidence have made Velikovsky the
Galileo of our time.
The story starts in 1939. Then Dr. Velikovsky, a practicing
psychoanalyst who had studied with Freud, went to the U.S. to
research a book on three dominant figures of the ancient
Mediterranean—Moses, Oedipus and Akhenaton. When he was nearly
complete a question arose about the time of the Exodus of the
Hebrews from Egypt.
Although recorded in detail by the Hebrews there
was no equivalent record in Egyptian history. Why?
Under the conventional chronology of Egyptian history, the time
period usually considered for the Exodus causes problems. For many
other events in Hebrew history there appear to be no Egyptian
counterparts either—but these two nations existed beside each other
for centuries, according to the Hebrews. Velikovsky's answer to this
lack of correlation was to suggest that the accepted chronology of
ancient Egypt was off by five hundred years.
He noted that our dating of Egyptian periods came
from the dynastic records handed down by Aegyptus and Agrippa,
and that the reigns of the Pharaohs used to date Egyptian history
had been strung together one after another. The key to the "missing"
half millennium was that there were many "co-regnal" periods where
the reigns of monarchs overlapped or were indistinct. In his revised
chronology, many events in Hebrew history were found to have their
counterpart in the Egyptian record.
The new chronology was built from the archaeological evidence found
in the ruins of ancient Egypt. From remaining papyrus and pottery,
tomb paintings and monuments a new story emerged. Because the
histories of Greece, Assyria, Babylon and Judea were all dated from
the dynastic records of Egypt, Velikovsky's work became highly
In 1945 this was limited to a specialist field, but
his next publication in 1950,
Worlds in Collision, aroused
widespread controversy, and was Velikovsky's explanation of the
cause of this amnesia in our collective memory.
THE COMET VENUS
The ancient civilization of Egypt was nearly destroyed in a cosmic
catastrophe that endangered the entire planet, according to
Velikovsky. Everywhere, huge resources were devoted to study of the
skies. It's widely known that ancient civilizations in Asia, the
Americas, Europe and the Middle East were highly advanced in
While we accept this as a common feature of our past,
Why were so many people interested in the
study of the movements of the planets?
Why is the alignment of astronomical
instruments found in Babylon 2.5 degrees out from the
present alignment of the Earth?
Why did calendars constructed between the
middle of the second millennium BCE *
and 800 BCE have 360 days and months of thirty days?
Why do even earlier calendars have days,
months and years of different lengths again?
the Common Era
Velikovsky's answer was that the Earth and Mars had
been involved in repeated near collisions with a gigantic comet
since our recorded history began. The events described in the Exodus and in Egyptian
papyri are a vivid description of an age in chaos—plagues, turmoil
and darkness, and the flight of the Hebrews from Egypt toward a
"column of fire" in Sinai.
The Earth was momentarily slowed down and its axis slightly altered
as the comet passed by. Electrostatic forces caused discharges to
arc between the Earth and the comet turning the skies to fire and
the forests to flame. The crust was rent, volcanoes erupted,
earthquakes rocked and darkness enveloped the world—the time of the
Seven hundred years later Isaiah, Joel and Amos described
another series of upheavals; the Sun appeared to stand still in the
sky. Although slightly dislodged from its axis and orbit again, the
Earth fared better this second time.
These were, in fact, the last two acts of a cosmic
drama; the earliest act of which we have records is called The
All cosmological theories assumed that the
planets have evolved in their places for billions of years...
Venus was formerly a comet and joined the family of planets
within the memory of mankind... We claim that the Earth's orbit
changed more than once, and with it the length of the year; that
the geographic position of the terrestrial axis and its
astronomical direction changed repeatedly and that at a recent
date the polar star was in the constellation of the Great Bear.
—Worlds in Collision, p. 361
Velikovsky believed that the origin of the comet that
was responsible for changes in the Earth's orbit was in the
proto-star we know as Jupiter. This idea outraged the scientific
community. But his theories about the natures of Jupiter and Venus
have not yet been proven wrong. He said that because Venus was
younger than the other planets, its surface temperature would be
much hotter and its atmosphere denser than astronomers believed;
these predictions were proven correct.
He predicted Venus would be found to have orbital anomalies in
relation to the other planets; Venus has since been found to rotate
on its axis in reverse direction to the other planets, and its day
is longer than its year. We now know that parts of the atmosphere of
Venus rotate in 4 days (with winds of up to 400 km/h) while the
planet itself rotates in 243 days. Both these rotations are
One of Velikovsky's hypotheses for the slowing of the
Earth's rotation which made the Sun appear to stand still was that
the planet was engulfed in the extended atmosphere of the comet
Venus. Some of the diurnal rotation of the Earth was imparted to
this dust-cloud according to Velikovsky, which fits the eccentric
characteristics of the Venusian atmosphere.
The comet spiraled past the Earth in an ever-decreasing path around
the Sun before taking up its present orbit as the planet Venus. He
further cites evidence to show that the Earth interacted with Mars
on a number of occasions when writing was better developed than
during the Venusian encounters, after Venus flipped Mars out of its
Disturbances caused by the passages of Mars consisted of
electrical discharges. Most of the "Mars events"
took place within a ninety-year period. This may sound far-fetched,
but Velikovsky's evidence and the predictions he made from it have
stood the test of nearly four decades of investigation.
As in his previous work, Velikovsky amassed an
impressive range of evidence to support his case.
To support his interpretation of the Hebrew and Egyptian histories, Velikovsky searched the records of the civilizations of the eighth
and fifteenth centuries BCE.
In his last book he described his many
years of research as sitting at the feet of sages,
"to listen to those who lived close to the events
of the past... I realized very soon that the ancient sages
lived in a frightened state of mind."
What became quickly apparent was the similarity of
the events these peoples had experienced, and the fear that global
upheavals associated with planetary encounters had inspired.
The legends of the past are folklore, but the similarity of motifs
from five continents and Pacific Ocean islands is striking; witches
on brooms, the dragon and the scorpion, an animal with many heads
and winged body, a woman whose veils stream behind her—these images
are universal cosmic myths recording the characteristic shapes
possessed by comets.
Velikovsky tracks the motif of the sun being trapped in its movement
through the tales of the Polynesians, Hawaiians and North American
Indians. Like the Middle-East civilizations they have the story of
the sun being snared and freed by a mouse. In the Hawaiian version Mauii caught and beat the sun, which begged for mercy and promised
to go more slowly ever after. At the same time new islands appeared.
The Ute Indians tell of a piece of sun setting fire to the world,
which was broken off by a rabbit after the sun rose, went down and
The legend of the cosmic battle of the planetary gods is familiar to
us all. In the Homeric epics the Greeks choose Athene/Venus for
their protector, the Trojans Ares/Mars. A similar situation existed
in ancient Mexico. The Toltecs worshipped Quetzalcohuatl/Venus, but
the later Aztecs revered Huitzilopachtil/Mars. The identity,
conflict and features of the planetary gods are consistent across
the ancient world.
Chinese chronicles record two suns doing battle in the sky and the
disturbance of the other planets this caused. Mars was pursued by
Venus, the Earth shook, glowing mountains collapsed,
"the customs of
the age are thrown into disorder... all living beings harass one
An old text-book of Hindu astronomy has a chapter on
planetary conjunctions. A planet can be struck down or utterly
vanquished, and the victor in these encounters is usually the planet
Venus. A juncture of the planets is called a yuga in Hindu
astronomy; the ages of the world are also called yugas.
An association for the planet Mars with the wolf is also common. In
Babylon one of the seven names of Mars was wolf. An Egyptian god
with the head of a wolf prowled the land. The Romans used the wolf
as the animal symbol for Mars. Slavic mythology has a god in the
shape of a wolf, Vukadlak, who devoured the Sun and Moon. In the
Icelandic epic The Edda, the god that darkens the Sun is the wolf
Fenris, who battled the serpent Midgard in the heavens above.
A Chinese astronomical chart quotes ancient sources
in saying "once Venus ran into the Wolf-Star."
In Earth in Upheaval, Velikovsky excluded all references to ancient
literature, traditions and folklore:
This I have done with intent, so that careless
critics cannot decry the entire work as tales and legends.
Stones and bones are the only witnesses.
All over the coast of Alaska there are great heaps of
smashed bones of extinct animals mingled with uprooted trees and the
occasional flint spear-head. Four layers of volcanic ash can be
found in these remains of splintered trees and dismembered bodies.
In the polar regions of Siberia and on the Arctic islands there are
hills of broken wood piled hundreds of feet high, and beyond them
hills of mammoth bones cemented together by frozen sand. On one
island the bones of these animals were found with fossilized trees,
leaves and cones. When the mammoth lived in Siberia there was
Spitsbergen is nearly 79 degrees north; yet fossil flowers and
corals and beds of coal thirty feet thick have been found.
Antarctica is known to have seams of coal at a latitude of 85
degrees. For this coal to have formed, the polar regions must have
had great forests in the past. How can relatively recent and sudden
changes in the Earth's climate and simultaneous wide-spread
destruction of plant and animal species be explained?
The violence of this destruction can be seen across Western Europe
where every major rock fissure is filled with the bones of animals,
splintered and smashed into fragments. One 1,400 foot hill in France
is capped by the remains of mammoths, reindeer, horses and other
animals. America has beds of fossil bones containing 100 bones per
square foot, deposited in sand. Some of these are over 200 feet
high. The hills of the Himalayas and Burma contain similar beds of
bones. In China, among these fractured bones, the skeletons of seven
humans were found.
European, Melanesian and Eskimo types were lying
together. Extinct and extant species of animals have been found
mixed together in English deposits.
The conventional theory of slow and uniform geological processes
cannot explain these deposits—instead, they are evidence of major
catastrophes which have struck the planet. Velikovsky suggests a
giant tidal wave which engulfed the world that picked up and carried
plants and animals over a great distance and smashed them
intermingled into common graves. This and the transformation of the
Earth's climate are explained as consequences of the rapid change of
the Earth's axis brought about by a near-collision with another
The geological record tells a similar compelling story to that which
paleontologists have unearthed. At 1,400 feet (400 meters) altitude
in the Andes there are high water surf marks lined with undecayed
seashells. There are many ruins surrounded by terraces for
cultivation on the dry west side of the Andes. On the east side,
terraces continue far past the permanent snowline. Before the last
lava sheet spread over Columbia there were human settlements there,
the remains of which have been found. That the Andes mountains were
raised in fairly recent times by unimaginable forces is one
The ocean floor around the globe also bears witness to flows of lava
and volcanic ash which covered a violently shifting bedrock while
tidal waves battered the continents. There were once dry land and
beaches in many places where the Atlantic Ocean now lies. The bottom
of the seas show that the Earth has been showered with meteorites on
a very large scale, leaving clay deposits rich in nickel, radium and
When the Earth's axis was shifted by the interaction of the Earth's
and the [rogue] planet's magnetic fields, magnetic eddy currents
formed in the atmosphere. These generated great heat and melted
rocks on the surface. As this rock cooled, it reformed with a
different magnetic polarity to surrounding strata. All over the
world, similar local rock formations are found with their magnetic
polarization reversed. For this to be the case the Earth's magnetic
field must have been reversed when these rocks were formed. Also,
rocks with this inverted polarity are far more strongly magnetized
than the Earth's magnetic field alone can account for.
Why was volcanic activity so common in the recent past? How was the
sea floor raised and lowered around the world?
As the Earth's axis
shifted in earlier times, the inertia of air and water caused
hurricanes and tidal waves; the stress on the planet caused
volcanism and an outpouring of magma, sending up clouds of volcanic
ash that threw a cloak of darkness over a sunless world.
The heat generated by these forces evaporated seas. In some places
torrential downpours formed great streams running through recently
opened fissures in the Earth's crust which suddenly eroded the
landscape. Elsewhere, snow fell and covered the land with
continental ice sheets. At the poles, a permanent snow-cover grew as
the land cooled.
Climatic changes, ice cover, mountain building and the reverse
magnetic orientation of rocks are explained by Velikovsky's theory
of cosmic catastrophe. However, the accepted view of the Earth's
geological history is known as
uniformitarianism; where the gradual
workings of natural forces has produced the world as we know it.
Needless to say, Velikovsky aroused as great a controversy in
geology as he had previously in archaeology and astronomy.
The defenders of uniformitarianism disliked
Velikovsky's ideas at least as much as their follow scientists its
Publication of Worlds in Collision caused a violent reaction;
astronomers everywhere denounced and decried the book. They
threatened to boycott Macmillan, the publisher, who was forced to
withdraw the book from circulation. Under pressure, Macmillan
transferred publication rights to Doubleday, who did not have a
textbook department and burned their unsold copies.
In reviews in reputable journals and public statements, academics
and scientists even criticized some of Velikovsky's works before
anyone had read the manuscript. Conferences were held to show
Velikovsky's theories were wrong.
Velikovsky died on November 17, 1979 at the age of 84. As more is
learned about our solar system, some scientists have realized that
his theories might conflict with accepted ideas but not actually
conflict with the facts.
RISING FROM AMNESIA
Velikovsky theorized that humanity suffered a collective amnesia on
the subject of catastrophes. As a reaction to the repeated
near-destruction of human civilization, a deep scar has been left on
the human psyche. Although the solar system has been settled for
2,700 years, he notes a 700 year cycle in the human collective
Christianity in the first century A.D. and
the seventh [century] were both founded on apocalyptic visions of
the transformation of the world by fire. The fourteenth century was
the time of the Black Death and the Hundred Years War which reduced
the population of Western Europe by two-thirds.
Velikovsky's fear was that in the twenty-first century this trauma
would be re-enacted by humanity, who is now in possession of the
means of its own destruction.
An examination of the facts may help the recall of our memory, the
suppression of which could be the cause of great violence in our
THE BOOKS OF VELIKOVSKY:
Worlds in Collision, 1950
Ages in Chaos, 1952
Earth in Upheaval, 1955
Oedipus and Akhnaton, 1960
Peoples of the Sea, 1977
Ramses II and His Time, 1978
Mankind in Amnesia, 1982
The design pictured at the top is from Assyria and is
several thousand years old. That at the bottom is from
the Dogon tribe and is contemporary.
The Dogon say their
fishtailed figure is from
Sirius, and astronomer
Temple claims that
the Assyrian design shows the same extraterrestrial with a fishtail.
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