At that time the present writer was a
schoolboy of seven, an avid reader of everything printed. I read the
article in Selezione with utmost fascination, being
particularly impressed by the explanation provided of the "miracle"
of the Sun stopping in the sky during the siege of Jericho.
These I recalled suddenly over 30 years
later, when I was discussing with an Irish colleague some ideas I
had developed about a possible catastrophic origin of ice ages and
explanation within this context of the origin of the Atlantis myth.
Velikovsky had been forgotten at the conscious level, but had
left a seed in the deep that was going to germinate.
The great success of his book with the public was due to several factors, partly related to a postwar reawakening of interests in religious traditions and widespread critical sentiments against a science that had led to the atomic weapon and to the risk of a nuclear obliteration of humankind.
Also a factor was the publicity provided
by the opposition to the book by the astronomical academia led by
Shapley and Payne Gaposhkin, who forced McMillan to
discontinue the publication of the book. There are not many authors
who incur the attacks of the academia, who tends to simply ignore
those who propose alternative points of view from the outside.
He gave moreover talks in several countries and
inspired a number of journals and study groups, who further
developed his ideas, some of these being still quite active. Many of
the ideas of Velikovsky have by now been accepted by academia,
albeit quite often his precursor role is simply ignored.
Then we end with information on a
forthcoming symposium on Velikovsky organized by the University of
We read in his autobiography Days and Years available in the internet site due to Jan Sammer (www.varchive.org),
1895 was the year when Freud began
writing The interpretation of dreams, when Roentgen discovered X
rays and when, exactly on 10th June, the day Velikovsky was born,
Herzl wrote in his diary I take in my hands the broken thread of the
tradition of my people: I will bring them to the Promised Land…
In this book Velikovsky analyzes the
impressive parallelisms between what is historically known on
Akhnaton and the data of the Greek tradition on Oedipus,
in the context of his revised chronology of Egyptian history. Thus
Akhnaton is dated not only well after Moses (therefore killing any
hypothesis of Moses getting from him the idea of monotheism) but
even after Solomon, i.e. in the ninth century, not many years before
the Assyrians would invade Egypt and put it under their control, a
thesis later developed in the book The Assyrian conquest
(still unpublished, albeit available in the quoted internet site).
He therefore abandoned his profitable
profession of psychiatrist for a full time study lasting many years
of ancient and modern documents useful for his thesis. Worlds in
Collision was the outcome of ten years of research in the great
libraries of New York and Princeton (he had moved to Princeton at
the beginning of second world war). Several other books followed in
a short time dealing with geological issues (Earth in Upheaval) and
especially with chronological issues and corresponding revision of
ancient history of the eastern Mediterranean countries.
The archive of his works – including
several still unpublished monographs – is under care of his
surviving two daughters, Ruth, a psychoanalyst in Princeton, and
Shulamit, who lives in a kibbutz near Haifa, married with the well
known mathematician Abraham Kogan.
In the preface to the paperback edition Velikovsky wrote:
That Hoyle’s opinion was then the dominant one was recently confirmed to me by a statement made at a meeting dealing with the planned (in 2012) GAIA ESA mission by the famous Italian physicist Salvini (quoted not verbatim):
About Hoyle one has anyway to observe that he later became an advocate of radical new theories and has been in particular a strong opponent of the big bang theory, albeit this name was invented by him.
Hoyle has quoted Velikovsky in his
autobiography (they met at a seminar given by Hoyle) without any of
the usual heavy criticism by most people in the academia.
The book deals in particular with two catastrophes:
Velikovsky claimed that the agents of the catastrophe were not ordinary comets or asteroids but two planets, namely Venus in the first case, Mars in the second case. According to him these planets had at that time orbits with different shape, more elliptical than now, as consequence of previous interactions with other planets in the solar system (the story of the previous events in the solar system is partly given in the book In the Beginning, another of the unpublished works).
The orbits of the two planets would have been circularized after the last catastrophe, thereby terminating for our planet the catastrophic era, where planets were a real threat and where astrology was a real science based upon the study of planetary interactions in a differently organized solar system. The book is based mainly on the analysis of a huge number of classical and mythological references (about a thousand quotations, of texts in many languages or of difficult access).
While the analysis is never quantitative
- and a quantitative analysis of the scenarios proposed by
Velikovsky would even with present computer power be beyond modeling
and computation possibilities - Velikovsky is well aware of where
modern science stood and has a number of pointed criticism to the
traditional scenarios, in particular where they only consider
gravitational effects in the astronomical relations, neglecting the
electromagnetic effects, both on large scale and in the study of
close flybys of large bodies.
These ideas were accepted by Newton and Cuvier. Illuminism started criticism of Bible opening the way to the so called uniformitarism approach that became dominant in the 19th century thanks in particular to the works of Lyell in geology and of Darwin in biology: the present is the key of the past, there are no celestial catastrophes today, there were none in Moses time.
No stones fall from the sky today, no stones could have fallen in the past (this extreme statement dominated astronomy well into the second half of 19th century, when a heavy fall of meteorites in France convinced the astronomers to accept ancient records of falling stones).
Now, fifty years after Worlds in Collision we can certainly say that scholars in the natural sciences pay more attention to ancient records of catastrophes. Such attention is partly due also to the existence of technological means, not available at Velikovsky time, to verify the effects of such unusual events in the geological and biological record: sophisticated analysis of pollen and other organic material in lacustral and oceanic sediments, analysis of organic and inorganic materials in long ice carrots extracted in Greenland or Antarctica, dendrochronological series extending now to about 10.000 years in some cases.
From such analysis evidence has emerged of strong climatic variations in the last 12.000 years, some setting so quickly that they can probably not be explained in terms of the usual terrestrial processes. Finally the direct observation in the case of the Shoemaker-Levy comet of the processes of disintegration proposed by Velikovsky and other neo-catastrophists (especially Clube and Napier) and of planetary impact, an event that astronomers considered extremely unlikely to be able to observe in their lifetime, has made the astronomical community conscious that our solar system surrounding is more fraught with dangers than it was believed just fifty years ago
This scenario after fifty years has dramatically changed, albeit the theses of Velikovsky about Venus and Mars are still considered unacceptable, except from a small minority of scholars.
The analysis made using the modern very sophisticated analytical instruments has indeed shown that nonlinear complex dynamical system, including planetary systems, have generally a behavior of the type defined chaotic, whose long term behavior cannot be predicted and whose dynamical structure is extremely rich. Now it is estimated that, even disregarding the very possible interactions with other bodies and structures in the galaxy, the solar system cannot be back integrated in time for more than a few million years, a factor one thousand less than estimated fifty years ago.
Moreover components of the solar system have been discovered, both at large distances or at planetary distances, that either were then unknown or their importance was not properly evaluated, e.g. the so called Apollo/Amor objects and the Kuiper belt (where objects of a considerable 600 km diameter are now known to exist).
The observation, albeit incomplete, of about sixty non solar planetary systems has shown dynamical and structural features completely unexpected and actually in several cases considered previously as dynamical impossibilities (e.g. the presence of Jovian or super Jovian planets very close to the mother star, when the current model had in that region only terrestrial type planets; or the presence of Jovian type planets in highly elliptical orbits).
With a hundred arguments the astronomer Van Flandern has proposed again the hypothesis of Olbers about the explosion of one or more planets in the region of the asteroid belt, as the event that originated not only the asteroids but as well the majority of comets and probably even Mars, considered as a surviving satellite of the exploded planet.
Van Flandern dates the last explosion to 3.2 million years ago. Observing, independently of Van Flandern, that the sequence of ice ages on our planet starts also 3.2 million years ago, the physicists Woelfli and Baltensperger have recently proposed a new theory for the origin of such ice ages, in terms of effects on Earth axis, called true polar wandering (where the north and south points move over the Earth surface), due to the close flyby of a planet, whose size was taken as default as that of.… Mars!
These authors have solved on the computer the equations defining the dynamics of the flyby (considering only gravitational forces, but with heavy use of the tidal forces).
Their computations have shown that a sufficiently close passage can lead to a polar displacement of even 18 degrees, a conclusion with Velikovskian flavor. They have moreover found that the body interacting with Earth at its perihelion would be heated so much by the Sun that it would move away from the Sun as a giant comet, surrounded by bluish hot gas over one million km diameter… again a wholly Velikovskian scenario.
Outstanding is however still the problem of proving that the proposed rounding of orbits of Venus and Mars can be achieved in a few centuries, i.e. a few hundred revolutions, albeit we are also not aware of a rigorous proof that it cannot. In conclusion, fifty years after Worlds in Collision we are facing very open scenarios about the structural and dynamical configuration of planetary systems. This confirms the importance of the idea of Velikovsky to use the testimonial information from ancient people about the evolution of our own planetary system.
Several problems have however arisen by using the classical Newtonian law of inverse square dependence on distance when used on structures (globular clusters, galaxies, clusters of galaxies…) having much greater size than the solar system size where Kepler derived his laws. Thus the need of introducing dark matter or even more exotic structures and particles or to hypothesize a different functional relation to distance or to introduce new forces.
Velikovsky had lengthy discussion with Einstein on the role of electromagnetism in the Universe. (see his book on his meetings with Einstein.) Developments of Velikovsky ideas on electromagnetism role are due to scholars inspired by Velikovsky, among them Juergens, Thornhill, Ginenthal, De Grazia, Milton, Zysman.
These forecasts were confirmed within a few years and Velikovsky had his forecast recognized in a letter sent to Science (21 December 1962) by the Princeton physicist Bargmann and the Columbia University astronomer Motz.
Velikovsky had moreover often insisted with Einstein to the purpose that during one of the first space missions his predicted radio emissions from Jupiter should be looked for. Einstein failed to obtain this experiment and later sent a letter to Velikovsky excusing himself for not having supported his proposal.
A detailed analysis of Mars morphology at the light of Velikovsky hypotheses has been presented in a paper by Ginenthal at the New York 1995 conference for the centennial of Velikovsky
Velikovsky claims that the fundamental error lies in the absolute anchoring of the Egyptian chronology that was made about two hundred years ago, at the beginning of Egyptology (the times of Lepsius and Champollion). A consequence of this error has also been the introduction of so called dark centuries for the Micenean and Anatolian civilizations.
For these centuries there is practically
no archeologically documented activity, with the curious fact that
at the end of this sterile period archeological documentation
reappears with the same styles that were active before the dark
period, as if centuries had passed without any stylistic evolution.
The work of Newton, originally published in 1728 one year after his death, has been recently reprinted but very few people have read it; his biographer Westfall has defined reading that book the worst penitence one can think of for a person. Following the seminal work of Velikovsky the chronology problem has since be at the center of the attention of several historians, especially in the anglosaxon world (Rohl, James, Bimson, Murphie…).
The German scholars Heinsohn and
Illig and the Russian mathematician Fomenko, who has
analyzed chronological data with statistical techniques, have
reached even much more radical revision in shortening the time span
than Velikovsky did.
The Hyksos devastated Egypt, destroying town, temples and exterminating large amount of the population.
The date given by Velikovsky for Exodus, based on internal chronology of the Bible and some 200 years lower that the traditional date for the Hyksos invasion, is 1447 BC. The Pharaoh is the Tutimaios of Manetho, i.e. the Dudimose in the list of kings of the well known papyrus in the Turin Egyptian Museum. Under this chronological setting it is clear that with the Exodus Moses not only terminated the slavery of Hebrews but most probably saved them from a likely annihilation by the Hyksos.
This writer has recently proposed for the term Hyksos the meaning people of the horses and has identified their origin in the Turanian region of the Amu Darya river, wherefrom the Amu would have moved in the time of worldwide migrations due to a global catastrophe of which the events described in the Bible for Egypt are just a local case.
I have also hinted that the wife of Moses from Kush, land usually identified with Ethiopia, was actually a women form the Hindukush/Badakshan region, land of the precious lapis lazuli exported also to Egypt.
Then Moses may have been informed of the
arrival of the Hyksos by the wife’s family and this would explain
why he took the unusual way through the desert, wishing not so much
to escape from a pursuing Pharaoh but from the oncoming Amu.
The lack of references to Exodus in
Egyptian sources was considered a sign of unreliability of the Bible
as a historical document or at least of a tendency of the Bible to
amplify the importance of events relating the Hebrews. The dating
proposed by Velikovsky redefines completely the historical setting
with important consequences on the following history, till the time
of Alexander, when use can be made of the work of the Greek and
Amenophis III and Amenophis IV (Akhenaton) lived in the ninth century BC, hence after Solomon (this eliminates any possibility of interpreting Akhenaton as the inspirer of Moses monotheism).
The El Amarna archive of their letters, to be dated to the period 870-840 BC, includes letters sent to the Hebrew kings of the kingdom of Samaria (capital city of the territory of the Ten Tribes of Israel) and of Jerusalem (capital of the territory of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin).
The present writer is of the opinion
that the approach of Salibi can be blended with that of Velikovsky
contributing to a further resolution of many puzzles of antiquity.