Velikovsky and Myth

There was an eighteen month period from 1949 to 1951 that seems to have been a watershed for breakthroughs hitting the bookshelves. Kon Tiki by Thor Heyedahl was a bestseller that was followed by Dianetics:the Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard, Worlds in Collision by Immanuel Velikovsky, and Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us.

Each of these four volumes revolutionized their fields. Dianetics led to the creation of the New Age religion, Scientology (although many would not claim this as any sort of “breakthrough”), and Rachel Carson’s book led to the explosion of the science of ecology. Thor Heyerdahl showed us that myth can be correct even when it looks impossible and that the ancients were more capable than we gave them credit for.

Velikovsky’s volume also involved myth: the myth in scripture. He searched specific passages which had no rational explanation and tried to figure out what physical processes could have caused such things – and, no, it did not deal with the miracles of the New Testament.

He chose the plagues visited on Egypt and the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. In these events he saw events that he felt could not have been entirely localized, even if such was the viewpoint of scripture. After finding similar events around the world – in myth, primarily – that coincided with the Bible, he pieced all the eyewitness clues together to construct a theory of what had happened.

To put his theories into a nutshell – which hardly does his research any justice – the planet Venus was born as a comet that had several near-misses with planet Earth, with dire results. It also had a near collision with Mars and forced it out of orbit to nearly collide with us as well.

If all this sounds like some wild science fiction, it isn’t. But the scientific community was not taking his success lightly. They very quickly lit the fires and began their version of the medieval inquisition.

Most scientists today publicly eschew the treatment doled out to Velikovsky by the scientific community, but one gets the impression that they would do it again if another gained similar acclaim.

With all the grant money at stake, who could blame them?

But getting back to Velikovsky… One of the more fascinating features of his book, Worlds in Collision, was what it was missing. The entire earlier history of Earth had been covered in the original manuscript but got chopped by the publisher to make it a more focused read for the public. (This and the fact that, while the book was on the bestseller list, the publisher canceled publication and sold it instead to Doubleday – due to pressure from the scientific community… you know, those guys that claim to only be interested in the truth.)

The volume was originally called Cosmos without Gravitation (I believe) and even dealt with a period before the Exodus where the Sun had gone out! This I got from a footnote in one of his volumes. Unfortunately, he passed away before the final three volumes of his series were published.

Bare-bones versions of his work can be found online (courtesy of his daughters) and can be found at the Velikovsky Archives (varchive.org).

Even if you cannot subscribe to the theory he outlines in his volumes or the whole neo-catastrophism his work engendered, you will have to admit he made great strides in our understanding of myth.

Although most of his followers have ventured on variant tracks since his death, his view of the ancient mythologies have opened new understandings of what the ancients were talking about.

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