by Fulton Oursler
Of “Worlds In Collision” Clifton Fadiman has said:
“It may well turn out to be as
epochal as The Origin of the Species of Darwin or the Principia
In the light of its new deductions and
speculations, Dr. Gordon A. Atwater, chairman and curator of the
Hayden planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History,
suggests that “the underpinning of modern science can now be
re-examined”; and John J. O’Neill, science editor of the New York
Herald Tribune, declares:
“This magnificent piece of scholarly
research raises world history to a level of superlative
author of this exciting new volume, Russian-born Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, studied natural sciences at Edinburgh University,
history, law and medicine (M.D.) in Moscow, biology in Berlin, the
working brain in Zurich, psychoanalysis in Vienna. He came to this
country in 1939. Worlds In Collision has been written after ten
years of extensive research in which the author consulted with
scholars and specialists all over the world.
About 25 years ago, a small-town schoolmaster in Tennessee told his
boys about Darwin’s theory of evolution. For this violation of a
state law which forbade instruction contrary to the Bible, the
teacher was arrested, and the world sat back to watch one of
history’s most extraordinary trials.
Called to the witness box as defender of the faith was a three-times
candidate for the Presidency, William Jennings Bryan. The defender
of John T Scopes, the schoolteacher, was Clarence Darrow, eminent
agnostic. Furiously Darrow attacked the wonder tales of the Bible,
cross-examined Bryan as a believer in myths and fairy tales.
“Mr. Bryan, do you believe that
Joshua made the sun stand still?”
“Mr. Darrow, I do!”
“Wouldn’t have been the earth itself
that stood still? An if that is what you believe, don’t you
believe that if the earth ever stopped turning it would be
converted into a molten mass of matter?”
The indignant Darrow seemed to be
speaking with exact knowledge. But science is never so dogmatic. A
quarter of a century after the Scopes trial, a scientist is
publishing a book declaring that within historical times the earth
did pause in its daily rotation, and that for more than a day the
sun remained visible over Joshua and his troops.
While this is only incidental to the author’s purpose, the book
tends to confirm the Bible in other miraculous accounts; familiar
tales of wonder emerge not as myths but as accurate reporting of
The savant who raises these possibilities, Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky,
calls his book Worlds In Collision. As Darwin did, he sets up
certain original hypotheses, and buttresses them with impressive
scholarship. Like a detective among the sciences, (archaeology,
paleontology, geology, astronomy, psychology, anthropology, physics)
he has put together by deductive reasoning a chain of circumstantial
evidence that may deeply affect the world of thinking men.
The links of his reasoning are forged out of the history and
literature of ancient and modern tribes and nations from all over
the earth. Text and footnotes sparkle with confirming data from the
Bible and the Talmud, from Egyptian papyri, Babylonian astronomical
tablets, Mayan and Aztec calendars, from the folklore of Arabia,
India, North America, Tibet, China, Peru.
The tale of the sun standing still illustrates one of his principal
methods for getting at the facts. Clearly if the sun “hasted not to
go down about a whole day” the phenomenon could not have been merely
a local spectacle. The whole area of the earth had to be affected:
if the sun hung in the morning sky over Gibeon, then elsewhere in
the world twilight or darkness was prolonged for the same period.
Dr. Velikovsky produces records from all over the earth which agree
as to the time and as to the altered portions of daylight and dark
in each area. Similarly concerted testimony repeats itself again and
again in other wonder stories. For every such incident which he
analyzes, Dr. Velikovsky quotes dozens, scores, even hundreds of
For the Bible’s most incredible story - the standing still of the
moon and sun while Joshua routed the foe - there is worldwide
evidence. says Dr. Velikovsky at the start of a long series of
“Allowing for the difference in
longitude, it must have been early morning or night in the
Western Hemisphere. We go to the books with the historical
traditions of the aborigines of Central America. In the Mexican
Annals of Cuauhtitlan -- the history of the empire of Clohuacan
and Mexico, written in Nahua-Indian (Nahuatl) -- it is related
that during a cosmic catastrophe that occurred in the remote
past the night did not end for a long time. We could follow a
path around the earth and inquire into the various traditions
concerning a prolonged night and prolonged day, with sun and
moon absent or tarrying at different points along the zodiac.”
Which he goes on to do. What happened,
then, on that mysterious day? The theory of Worlds in Collision
rests on catastrophes caused by a great comet that passed near the
earth twice, first about 1500 B.C., at the time of the Exodus, and
again 52 years later, in the time of Joshua; and a repetition of the
earlier catastrophes on a smaller scale due to several near brushes
with the planet Mars some 700 to 800 years later. These astral
cataclysms caused strange things to happen on the earth and in the
The explanation of Joshua’s miracle is that if a large enough comet
were ever to come near the earth just such spectacular things would
come to pass. The encounter would slow down the earth in its daily
turning, and people who think the sun goes around the earth would
see, among other mystical sights, the sun and moon as if suddenly
halted in the heavens. That, Velikovsky maintains, is exactly what
The mysterious outlaw in the firmament, the comet which caused the
seas to part, raised a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire
by night, was actually a sky-rover born and cast out by spontaneous
eruption from the boiling mass of the planet Jupiter. The new comet
whizzed around us in space until after centuries it was caught and
trapped as a permanent member of our solar system, settling down
brightly into a circular orbit, and changing into a showy but
contented planet revolving on schedule around our sun -- the
beautiful star which men call Venus.
The strange birth of that morning star is what Velikovsky’s book is
really about. All the other parts of his case are dependent on that
prolonged and spectacular cataclysm.
In presenting his theory, Dr. Velikovsky begin with humility,
confessing the ignorance of science, of “homo ignoramus.” What man
does not know would fill a bigger book than all the books written.
He has yet to learn the simplest and most essential things: what
life is, or how it came to be. Man cannot tell whether life in any
form exists anywhere else in the star-hives of the sky, nor what is
the mysterious force called gravitation. The birth of the solar
system is still beyond the understanding of scientists.
The first step that a scientist should take is to study one planet,
the one under our feet; “then, by the deductive method, to apply the
results to other members of the solar system.” This Dr. Velikovsky
is trying to do, bringing into his reasoning the new knowledge of
electromagnetism and nuclear physics.
He holds that what happens in the heavens is akin to what happens in
an atom, where electrons revolve around the nucleus like planets
around the sun. But once in a while the electrons shift their
positions. Someone objects: “We do not read in the morning paper
that all of a sudden Saturn and Mars changed their places.” True; we
do not read it in the newspapers because it is not a daily
occurrence, but we do read about it in the ancient records quoted in
this new book. In an atom, a planet goes around its sun millions of
times in a second. It may go through billions or rotations, or
atomic years, without changing its orbit. But then the atom absorbs
a bit of energy and the electron moves to a higher orbit where its
year is longer; or the atom emits a bit of energy and the electron
drops to an orbit nearer the nucleus and its year becomes shorter.
On the grander scale of the solar system, centuries or even
millenniums may pass between a corresponding event there and its
Once the author’s idea is understood -- that the violent and
cataclysmic changes on a miniature scale within the core of an atom
have been enacted on a grand but equally sudden scale in the
universe of suns, planets and comets -- light begins to shine on
some old and stubborn mysteries.
Of course, every astronomer knows that contact with another body of
sufficient mass could disrupt the earth’s rotation and rhythm. To
this day comets by the millions are loose in space, a danger to us,
remote but still actual. We know that our earth can and does collide
with masses of meteorites; often such sizzling stones fall to earth.
They even this knowledge is very recent.
As late as the time of our great grandfathers, no one in the
scholarly world believed that a stone could fall from the sky. That
skepticism was shared by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton,
among many others up to 1803, when a shower of meteorites falling at
L’Aigle in France was investigated by the French Academy of
Sciences. Then, for the first time, educated man recognized that
some wild thing in the sky could collide with us.
In the Bible accounts the author finds extraordinary confirmation of
the presence of a comet during those bewildering days. If, for
example, the head of a comet approached the earth, a rain, a very
torrent, of meteorites would assuredly fall upon us. In the book of
Joshua, only two verses before the sun is suspended on high, we read
how the “Lord cast down great stones from Heaven.” Although the man
who wrote the Book of Joshua knew nothing of the connection between
the stones falling from t he sky and a stoppage of the earth, he
gives a vivid and scientifically accurate description.
The period of the first visit of the comet was the time when Pharaoh
kept the Jews in bondage in Egypt and Jehovah sent plagues of frogs
ad locusts, showers of blood and fire, and a darkness that would not
lift, to force the old king to change his mind. All these tales
Bryan would have believed and Darrow would have scoffed at, but
neither could have proved anything, one way or the other. Velikovsky
sets out to prove that all happened, just as recorded, the Biblical
story of the Israelites closely following the astronomical order of
For example, during the plagues the world turned red. One of the
first signs of the encounter with the comet was rain of particles of
rusty pigment as the comet brushed the earth with its gaseous tail.
It seemed to turn lakes, rivers and seas into blood; the earth
itself looked rusty all over. There are eyewitness accounts of this
red saturation not only in the Bible but in the Manuscript Quiche of
the Mayas, and in an Egyptian papyrus by Ipuwer, who himself watched
the phenomenon. “The river is blood,” he lamented, and this
corresponds with the Book of Exodus: “All the waters that were in
the river were turned to blood.” The pollution of fresh waters
killed the fish, “and the river stank,” says the Book of Exodus.
They “could not drink the water of the river.” The Egyptian reporter
agrees and exclaims: “Men shrink from tasting; human beings thirst
after water. What shall we do? All is ruin!”
And not only in the Middle East. The red-stained dust, which
irritated the skin of men and animals, and raised boils, causing
sickness and death, is reported also in many other lands.
Came next the final Egyptian plagues, a reign of darkness that
lasted seven days, climaxed with violent upheavals. Naturally so,
too, says Velikovsky, because the body of the comet approached the
earth. This approach, the contemporary reports would indicate, was
followed by a rain of rocks and boulders and stasis of the earth; it
shuddered and missed some rotations before righting itself and
Nations and tribes in many other places have traditions about a
cosmic catastrophe during which the sun did not shine; the long
darkness is remembered in Finland, Babylonia and Peru, by the
American Indians, by peoples all over the world. Hundreds of
thousands of men and animals were killed during an upheaval that
shook the world.
According to the Bible account, which Velikovsky does not quote,
after those frightening experiences of darkness and earthquake
Pharaoh consented to let Moses’ people go. But as life became normal
again he regretted his decision and with his army rode forth in
chariots to force the fugitives back -- thus riding posthaste into a
miracle about which prophets were to give thanks to God for
centuries to come: the crossing of the Red Sea.
Did any such thing happen historically? The logical Velikovsky is
sure that it did. The swift shifting of the atmosphere under the
impact of the gaseous parts of the comet, the drift of air attracted
by the body of the comet, and the rush of the atmosphere resulting
from inertia when the earth stopped rotating, all helped to produce
winds of enormous velocity and force, just as described in the Old
Testament. The theme of such a cosmic hurricane is reiterated in
Mexico, Idia , Persia, and the South Seas. But that was not the full
In the midst of such a windstorm, a comet with a head as large as
the earth itself, passing sufficiently close, would terrifically
affect the ocean tides. The comet raised the waters of the ocean
miles high. From Japan to Peru, among the Choctaw Indians and in
tribes on the other side of the world the memory of this rip-roaring
tide persists, of seas rent asunder, an event so unusual that it
became the most impressive recollection in the long history of
peoples. For all nations were first blasted by the same plagues and
fire, the shaken by the same fury.
And now there came to pass a pageant in the sky that was profoundly
to impress the imagination of men and their literature. The heavens
seemed a battleground, a scene of unparalleled terrors and splendor.
For by this time the head of the comet, having previously passed
close to the sun, was on fire. Candescent and spectacular, it swing
into the earth’s own orbit, and thus the wandering Jews followed a
pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Meanwhile, the
head of the coiling comet became entangled in its tail, and that
struggling in the midst of the firmament must have looked like a
battle between a globe of fire and a dark column of smoke.
No wonder that, as their songs still tell today and their epics,
people in many parts of the earth believed they were beholding a
fight between a sky monster in the shape of a serpent and the light
god, who won the victory and saved the world. It is difficult to
find a people or a tribe on earth that does not include at the same
motif in its religious beliefs.
So now came one forever-to-be remembered phenomenon. A tremendous
spark sprang forth at the moment of the nearest approach of the
comet, when the earth’s waters were heaped at their highest and
before they fell down. Many peoples recall this spark as a lightning
bolt thrown down by a god at a world covered with flood and fire.
“And the Angel of God, which went before the camp of
Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud
went from before their face and stood behind them... and it was a
cloud and darkness but it gave light by night.”
strong wind and lightenings rent the cloud. In the morning the
waters arose as a wall and moved apart...
“And the children of
Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the
waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left.
And the Egyptians pursued. ...And it came to pass, that in the
morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through
the pillar of fire and of the cloud... And the waters returned and
covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh
that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one
Actually, all the earth was pausing through those same events. In
China, Yahou’s time was the time of Moses in Palestine; in Chinese
chronologies you will find the following reports: The sun did not
set for a number of days; the forests were set on fire; a high wave,
“reaching the sky,” poured over the land.
After the earth paused in its rotation it started spinning again.
And here we encounter a fascinating mystery. Our planet now rotates
from west to eat. Has it always done so? The ancient charts seem to
suggest otherwise. There are charts painted on the ceiling of an
Egyptian tomb which show the heavens as the were, over the Middle
East, before and after these cataclysms -- and there is a complete
and unmistakable reversal. Plato wrote in the “Statesman” of the
“change in the rising and setting of the sun and other heavenly
bodies, how in these times they used to set in the quarter where
they now rise.” And a little later he added: “At certain periods the
universe has its present circular motion, and at other periods it
revolves in the reverse direction. Of all the changes which take
place in the heavens, this reversal is the greatest and most
Velikovsky turns to the natural sciences for an explanation. He
points out that this globe of ours is a huge magnet. When a
thunderbolt strikes a magnet, it reverses the magnetic poles; what
before was north is now south, and vice versa. On a grand scale, a
short circuit between the earth and a celestial body, such as the
comet, could result in the magnetic poles of the earth changes
Geological records indicate that something of the sort must have
happened. Velikovsky quotes from Alvin Greene McNish, the
“Examination of magnetization of some ingenious rocks
indicates that the polarity of the earth has been completely
reversed within geological times.”
What had Venus to do with these catastrophes that brought the world
to the brink of destruction? “Here,” says Dr. Velikovsky, “is a
question that will carry us far, indeed.”
As he sees it, there followed seven centuries after Joshua during
which peoples already decimated by gigantic catastrophes never lost
the fear of new disasters, a fear which their best intellects
confirmed; more trouble, the prophets said, was on the way.
Meanwhile, these years saw the coming of a new planet when from the
fetus of the comet Venus was born, and took her low and lovely place
in our sky.
Is there historical evidence of this? Yes, says the author. By
asserting that the planet Venus was born at this time, he has to
prove that before then only four of the sun’s planets were visible,
and that in astronomical charts of this period no Venus can be
found. This proof he brings forward; in the Hindu table of planets
drawn up about 3100 BC Venus alone among the visible planets is
absent, although Brahmans of a later period knew of five planets. So
it is in Egyptian astronomy. The Babylonians called Venus “the great
star that joins the other great stars.” And in every country of the
ancient world there are vivd myths of the birth of the planet Venus.
Venus finally became stabilized in its present orbit after a brush
with the planet Mars -- a flirtation often referred to in mythology.
This encounter jarred Mars out of its orbit, and at 15-year
intervals Mars also passed near the earth. In 747 BC and 687 BC Mars
came so close that there was a repetition of the earlier
Of the second series of catastrophes, the records are much better
preserved, for this was the era of the Hebrew prophets. Those
inspired ancients were first-rate astronomers as well as poets and
seers; they could and did accurately predict two upheavals of their
time. Amos was put to death for his gloomy forecasts, but the
catastrophe arrived on time; King Uzziah was at the altar when a
great breach was torn in Solomon’s Temple by the quaking of the
earth. This calamity was only a prelude.
“The day thick with night”
foreseen by Isaiah came upon the land; “the earth,” as the Bible
reports it, “utterly broken down.”
And then the long Biblical drama of the army of
Sennacherib, for of
Israel. It is described most laconically in the Book of Kings.
“And it came to pass that night,
that the Angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of
the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand; and when
they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead
The identical story is repeated in the
Book of Chronicles, the Talmud, and other ancient sources.
Obviously, the simultaneous death of tens of thousands of warriors
could not be due to a plague; this spectral massacre happened
overnight. The Bible says: “A blast fell from the sky” on the camp
of Sennacherib. The death of those enemy hosts of men is explained
in the Talmud as caused by gaseous masses, penetrating the
atmosphere, which could, in certain areas, asphyxiate all breath.
Again, such a phenomenon would not be localized, and it was not; the
fire in the sky and the gases falling to the earth are also reported
in the Bamboo Books of China, in Mayan inscriptions, and in records
in other parts of the world.
On the evening before the destruction of the army, according to the
Bible, the shadow of the sun returned 10 degrees. In China and
elsewhere the same reports occur. They agree that the date was March
23, 687 BC.
What changes in motion of all the earth resulted from these near
earth collisions and readjustments which extended over a period of
200 years, or even longer? Many ancient peoples devised accurate
calendars. before 747 BC the Israelites, Egyptians, Mayans, Chinese
and others used calendars showing 12 months of 30 days each, a
360-day year. It is unlikely that a mistake of five days would go
unnoticed, for within a few years there would be a marked change in
the harvest season. In 747 BC a new calendar was introduced in the
Middle East, and during the seventh century BC all these peoples
added five days to their calendars. This, Dr. Velikovsky writes,
means that the orbit of the earth changed at that time, causing the
yearly journey around the sun to take longer.
Great geological changes also occurred. The ice ages seem to have
ended with the catastrophic suddenness; regions of mild climate
moved instantly into the polar circle; the ice sheet in America and
Europe started to melt. One does not have to be a scientist to look
at a map and see the picture for himself. A circle centered
somewhere near the east shore of Greenland, embracing the region of
the ice sheet of the last glacial age, will exclude northeastern
Siberia but will include the valley of the Missouri down to 39
degrees north latitude.
In the last century scientists were puzzled by the extermination of
the mammoth, an animal far better developed than the elephant which
survived. They fancied that perhaps slow changes in the land had
forced the great beasts up into bare hills where they gradually died
off from starvation. But we now know that the mammoths did not die
for lack of food. Their bodies have been found, preserved in
northern ice, and their bellies were filled with undigested grass
leaves. That undigested foliage grows today, not in the region where
the beast died but a thousand miles away. Only sudden natural
catastrophes of far flung violence could explain theses and other
The question is inevitable: Was not the North Pole at some time in
the past 20 degrees or more distant from the point it now occupies,
and closer to America? So, too, the South Pole would be closer to
Australia. The sudden alteration explains why the mammoths were
wiped out all at once, as by asphyxiation or electrocution, either
of which was possible. They lived in a moderate climate. Came the
catastrophe and the mammoths died. In a few hours northern America
changed from the frigid zone of the polar circle into a moderate
zone, while northeastern Siberia moved in the opposite direction
from the moderate zone to the polar circle.
It is natural that at the close of his book the author should
speculate on what can happen to the world in the future. The solar
system is not changeless; if catastrophes have fallen, they may
repeat themselves with perhaps a different, even fatal result. There
exists a possibility that a collision between two planets may
someday occur. Trouble might come from the moons of Jupiter which
cross their orbits, or from the planet Pluto that crosses under an
angle of the orbit of Neptune.
Moreover, comets -- like Venus before it became a star -- may again
come near or even strike the earth; a large comet could run into one
of the planets and push it from its orbit; then chaos might start
anew. So an end to the world, as we know it, is by no means
This, in substance, incompletely stated, is Velikovsky’s theory.
Thus a single scholar has sought a synthesis of knowledge and reason
in fields of science, legend and religion. The result is a theory of
earth’s history as a planet, fascinating as a tale by Jules Verne,
yet documented with a scholarship of worthy worthy of Darwin or Eans.
To science, Worlds in Collision opens up a vast new debate; to
millions of true believers in the Old Testament, it will come as an
unintended and reassuring answer to the rationalist criticism of the
last 75 years.
How strange all this would seem to Clarence Darrow, and equally to
William Jennings Bryan, if they could know.