Posts Tagged ‘history’

Sinkhole de Maya

May 6, 2010

Someone asked me on Wednesday about the “sinkholes de Maya”. And I thought he was talking about the sacred cenotes, sunken waterholes utilized by the Maya for ritualistic purpose as well as for the life-sustaining water it offered.

He listened politely, nodding his understanding of what I said and, when I had finished he asked, but what is all the celebration about.

Celebration? Cenotes?

Oh, I said, you mean the Cinco de Mayo celebrations?

Yes, he said, isn’t that some Mexican holiday?

Actually, it is celebrated more in America than Mexico. A lot of people think it is the Mexican Independence Day but that falls on September 16th.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day in 1862 when a small Mexican force defeated twice their number at the city of Puebla.

Agincourt, Waterloo, Moscow, Puebla – everyone seems to relish celebrating defeating the French.

I wonder if that means anything?

I hope everyone had a good Cinco.

(that is, if you celebrate that sort of thing)

Neo-Catastrophism

January 8, 2010

Continuing on the Velikovsky theme, his premier volume, Worlds in Collision, not only challenged the cosmology of astronomers but also the chronology of historians.

Utilizing his comparisons of ancient myths around the world, he was able to establish a baseline for history. From this uniform beginning, he was able to establish a chronology for the ancient world, primarily the Middle East. Unfortunately, this did not match well with what the historians had already established as reflected in works like the multi-volume Cambridge Ancient History.

It seems Immanuel was not making friends anywhere within the scholarly world… except with a long friendship with that other “outsider” Albert Einstein. If I recall correctly, it took years before his work became accepted as well.

Anyway, even before his passing, many of his followers were questioning one part or another of his basic theory and striking out in new directions.

Today, these Neo-Catastrophists have a wide variety of theories circulating, all loosely based on Velikovsky’s work. Many of these concentrate on the historical chronologies while others expend their energies on reformulating the cosmological aspects of his work.

As I mentioned before, the earliest incarnation of his first volume was called Cosmos without Gravitation but was shortened at the request of the publisher to deal only with the events of the Exodus and the period immediately following.

From the physics angle, this concept of “no gravity” seems to defy the bedrock of Newton’s theories. But remember, it is still just a theory. A very workable theory – as it has gotten us to the moon – but still just a theory.

[An interesting sidenote to this issue is the work done by Edward Leedskalnin, a Latvian immigrant who built a castle of multi-ton stones by himself in the early twentieth century. When asked how he did it he explained it was through his use of “magnetic currents”. Scientists have studied his papers and concluded the man was a charlatan and a crackpot and could not have possibly built it… Yet it stands today.]

Some of Velikovsky’s disciples have developed a theory of an electric universe (Talbott, Cardona, Thornhill, Cochrane, et al) which is a follow up to his concept of a cosmos without gravitation. It is a fascinating theory and intersects this Mayan study in several respects. Primarily how they view the historical cosmological chaos as described by Velikovsky.

One further aspect of their theory is what has become known as “the Saturn Model”. This is a bit too complicated to get into at the time but I will address it in a future entry.

At this juncture I will say that it answers a lot of questions about the ancient myths but to me it seems to avoid many others. Perhaps as the theory evolves it will come to encompass answers to my objections as well.

But only time will tell.

Velikovsky and Myth

January 5, 2010

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.