Electric                    Astral               Pre-historical
Universe              Catastrophism        Reconstruction


Articles & Products Supporting the Pre-historical Reconstruction and Plasma Cosmology
 home       features       science/philosophy       wholesale store       used books        contact

Site Section Links

Introduction Material
The Third Story

Cosmology, Origins
The Nature of Time
Nature of Time video
The Nature of Space
The Neutrino Aether
Nature of Force Fields

Geophysical Material
Origin of Modern Geology
Niagara Falls Issues
Climate Change Model
Climate Change Questions

Philosophy Material
Philosophy Links

Reconstruction &
Mythology Material
Modern Mythology Material
Language/Symbol Development
1994 Velikovsky Symposium
Pensee Journals TOC
Velikovskian Journals TOC
Selected Velikovskian Article

Miscellaneous Material
Modern Mythology
State of Religious Diversity
PDF Download Files
Open letter to science editors


KRONOS Vol. I, Issue 4


* This paper was first presented at the symposium titled Velikovsky and Cultural Amnesia held at the University of Lethbridge, May 9-1 1, 1974.

Part II

This article is the continuation of an essay on Antony and Cleopatra, the first part of which was published in the previous issue of KRONOS, Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall-1975, pages 31 to 45.

* * *

I turn next to another recent study of the play, by Clifford Davidson of Western Michigan University.29 He stresses the iconographical, mythical and religious models which he feels underlie Shakespeare's play, claiming it is in large part

based on archetypal patterns which appear to have their basis in literature, thought and tradition of his own time.30

These traditional models, as Davidson elicits them, trace back to the time of Christ and indeed earlier, and thus Davidson's linking of them to Shakespeare's play may indicate a form of continuity of idea between the actual times of the catastrophes and Shakespeare's day.

In general, Davidson's essay, like Lee's, seems almost to have been written about Velikovsky's theories, so often and so consistently do his observations apply. I hazard the guess that this is primarily so because the background which Davidson delineates -- myth, icon, religious parallel -- is only one step removed in literality from the events which gave rise to it. Thus, when I apply his discoveries to my approach, I feel I am simply carrying his materials back to their true source.

Cleopatra, says Davidson, is given traditional sets of qualities which relate her, among others, to The Whore of Babylon, a brilliant Queen, the temptress Circe, a provocative gypsy, and the goddess Venus. To this list we must add Velikovsky's Venus, for she is also given the qualities of a fiercely disruptive celestial body. For instance, Davidson describes her as

active and hot -- so hot that the seeming Cupids on her barge with their fans only make her "delicate cheeks" glow with their sensual warmth.31

She is portrayed as a disturber of natural order.

She stands for excess, since she will not pause at the limits set by nature.32

Her object is to disrupt a pre-existing scheme.

Thus she usurps the phallic role, Shakespeare suggests; of course, such usurpation is an attempt to achieve a reversal of the natural order, which was, after all, the object of the serpent in Eden.33

Because she is associated with serpents, notes Davidson, Cleopatra's Egypt is hideously fertile, full of snakes, and poisonous.

She lives in a world which is reminiscent of Spenser's Bower of Bliss and which is fully as poisonous, especially to male visitors from Rome.34

The poison affects Antony,

who admits to Caesar that he had "neglected" his duty "when poisoned hours had bound me up/From mine own knowledge (II.ii. 90-91)." This poison is obviously to be identified with the great Satanic enemy of life who in the guise of the serpent conveyed death into the fertile Garden of Eden and hence into the whole world of human beings.35

Here we have the serpent, a poisonous Cleopatra and the destruction of Eden in one passage. If we recall what Velikovsky says about the relation between mythological serpents and the tail of Comet Venus, and about the poisonous consequences of Earth's contact with that very tail, and about its effects on the planet Mars, which might poetically be said to have neglected its duty in being forced to follow a new or errant course, the parallels are suggestive, as if the appearance of what seemed to be a giant serpent in the sky marked the apparent end of celestial stability. This also accords well with Cleopatra's role as Eve to Antony's as Adam, which Davidson also establishes.

She is also Circe, as described in Chapman's translation of Homer, holding out a cup full of sensual pleasure which transforms men into beasts -- or stable planets into unstable bodies -- and we are told her poison is associated with sweetness.

Not surprisingly, Chapman's translation describes Circe disguising her "harmefull venoms" with honey as well as with other nourishing food and drink.36

We might think of the connection Velikovsky makes between the poisonous atmosphere of Comet Venus' tail and the sweet honey-like manna produced by its hydrocarbons.

From Circe, it is but a short step to Venus, both in her earthly form, where she was considered a planetary prostitute,37 and in her heavenly form, which taught men to prefer eternal reality to immediate pleasure. She is also equated with Isis, just as Velikovsky has done, but the most prevalent image she projected for the Renaissance, Davidson tells us, was as a universal troublemaker, for

though not true in every sense, the claim may be provisionally made that Venus ought to be seen in terms of discord. . . Cleopatra likewise is in one sense also viewed by Shakespeare as a major source of discord within the ancient Roman world.38

If we apply the celestial equivalents which I have tried to establish earlier in my analysis of this play, we can see that the Renaissance picture of Cleopatra is much like Velikovsky's picture of Venus.

Next, we look at Cleopatra's effect upon Antony. It was generally considered, Davidson tells us, that Antony's attraction to Cleopatra debilitated him. The image Shakespeare uses is martial, but it could also be considered Velikovskian.

Thus Antony's sword is "made weak" by [his] affection.39

The cause of this weakening, in medieval terms, is the sin of Idleness, or Sloth, and it is curious that Davidson refers to an illustration of Idleness by Cesare Ripa, in which an old woman, weak and poor, holds a fish. He quotes Ripa.

Fish, it was believed, when touched by a net or by hands become so stupefied that they cannot escape. Idleness affects the idle in the same way they cannot do anything.40

It is interesting that Idleness, which traps Antony, is pictured as a fish immobilized in a net, which recalls Antony caught in Cleopatra's strong Egyptian fetters, 1.2.113, and also the net of Hephaestus trapping and immobilizing Ares and Aphrodite as they make love illicitly. This last is a major point in Alfred de Grazia's The Torrid Love Affair of Moon and Mars, where he draws a direct relationship between the celestial events of -780 to -687, as described by Velikovsky, and the Song of Demodocus from Book Eight of Homer's Odyssey, where the Ares-Aphrodite-Hephaestus love triangle is narrated.41

Antony was of course identified with Mars, Davidson points out, and thus, when he rebels, it is described in geometrical terms as a rebellion against order -- he does not keep his square, he does not act by the rule. Instead, he is drawn erratically to the East, to Cleopatra, and the result is pictured as a startling disorder in the sky, with celestial objects appearing where and when they should not.

By his lack of control, he will gain mirth and another chance "to reel the streets at noon."42

At another point, Davidson brings the love story even closer to the events described by Velikovsky, when he tells us that Shakespeare was familiar with the Ares-Aphrodite-Hephaestus triangle which de Grazia has seen as a mythological retelling of the Velikovsky scenario. In this case it is the Roman version, involving Venus, Mars and the jealous Vulcan, as narrated in the fourth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, where Mars' excessive attraction to Venus, or Antony's to Cleopatra, is given explicitly catastrophic dimensions by Davidson through reference to Shakespeare's own words, already quoted in another instance some pages earlier.

The greatness of this love can only be measured in terms of the degree to which Antony will neglect his duty. He will "Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch/Of the rang'd empire fall" (I.i. 33-34).43

Venus and Mars become hot when they join, but they are cooled by Vulcan.

Such an interpretation of the myth would seem to have been an important element in Shakespeare's depiction of Antony and Cleopatra.44

Cleopatra is thus pictured as the Fatal Woman who destroys the male, and the image which Davidson uses bears an eerie resemblance to Velikovsky's own words.

Through her instrumentality, he loses his manhood and gives himself over to blind and irrational Fortune, who then flings him from her wheel.45

When the warrior-like Mars came into conjunction with the seductive Venus, the result in Renaissance myth was that he was emasculated, he lost his warlikeness, but we must also think of Velikovsky, describing the celestial event, and saying enigmatically that Mars was thrown out of the ring. 46 This must lead us to wonder whether the role of Comet Venus as described by Velikovsky underlies the religious and mythological figure pictured variously as Eve, Circe, the Whore of Babylon, an evil temptress, a celestial prostitute and Cleopatra.

In political terms, which parallel the celestial events Dr. Velikovsky described, Antony-Mars should be master because of his status in the Roman Empire, for Cleopatra-Venus is a captive ruler, but he is subdued by Cleopatra, and

as a result of his submission, he loses his potency. Hence there appears to be justified male bitterness when Canidius exclaims that his "leader's led./And we are women's men" (III.vii. 69-70).47

Cleopatra is described as

the debilitating queen -- the fatal woman -- who in the end will sap all his war-like heat and power

-- What could be more like Velikovsky's picture of Mars and Venus? --

and thus will lead him to utter defeat at the end of a mismanaged war.48

Davidson at this point refers to a painting by Botticelli.

Mars, like Antony, has put aside his plated armor, nude and debilitated, he sleeps as if nothing could ever wake him.49

We think of the planet Mars now, devoid of much of its atmosphere, its terrain battered and disturbed, its hydrosphere, if it ever had any, gone. It is nude, as in the photographs, and debilitated, weak, with little dangerous effect upon the stability of the Earth or the solar system. Dr. Velikovsky has called it a flying graveyard.50 It had once been considered a celestial war-king, a furious and fiery planetary deity, but it has become a small, weak and orderly planet. In mythical terms, we are told there is no question

that Venus was the active agent: in other words, what Venus did with Mars was to render him her slave. As Ficino asserts in his astrological discussion of these divinities, "Mars never masters Venus."51

Yet, despite Venus-Cleopatra's role as a disrupter of order, despite her deleterious effect on Mars-Antony, Davidson emphasizes that the Renaissance saw a very positive conclusion to their affair, for

the Renaissance generally remembered that the love of Venus and Mars was a discordia concors which led originally to the birth of a daughter, Harmony. The value of Venus' dominance over Mars will thus be found in the mitigation of the god of war's ferocity, for only through such dominance can conflict and war be reduced to harmonious peace. . . In the end, the love of the martial Antony and wanton Cleopatra will lead historically to the end of the conflict between the triumvirs and to the harmony of "universal peace" into which will be born the Prince of Peace.52

That is to say, the Venus-Mars turbulence, which appears so potentially troublesome, actually precedes the coming of a new order. This is certainly the case in Shakespeare's play, for Davidson refers to Octavius Caesar's prediction of future peace as Antony and Cleopatra are close to their destruction.

"The time of universal peace" . . .is perhaps the most significant single line in the play. This will be the "universal Peace through Sea and Land" which according to Milton's "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," prepared the scene for "the Prince of Light" to begin "His reign of peace upon the earth."53

It is at this point that Davidson's analysis of the classical and medieval background to Shakespeare's play merges virtually directly with my Velikovskian interpretation of it. He calls our attention to the apocalyptic nature of the imagery with which this positive result of the Mars-Venus disturbance is dressed, and, in so doing, he gives it precisely the universal relevance which Velikovsky sees.

The old order is coming to a close, and the effect will be to reorient* men who believe in a Christian message to the "new heaven" and "new earth" which will be ushered in after the Second Coming.... When the guards discover the fatally wounded Antony, one of them exclaims: "The star is fallen," while the other one adds, "And time is at his period" (IV. xiv. 106-07). In the Apocalypse we read: "and there felle a great starre from heaven" (viii. 10); and "time shulde bee no more" (x. 6.).54

[*Italics mine.]

If we transpose these last three quotes into literal solar-system terms, they apply to the situation in the heavens from -780 to -687 as described by Velikovsky, especially if one were trying to put a hopeful positive interpretation upon these terrifying events. If Rome is Earth, then the Mars-Venus turbulence is indeed a discordia concors, creating conflict in the skies, but then leading to the destruction of that conflict through Venus' mitigation of Mars' ferocity. It is a catastrophe in the ancient Greek sense -- a turning down before a new and better age begins. What it leads to, in religious terms, is a time of universal Peace [celestial stability] through Sea and Land -- no cataclysmic floods, earthquakes, upheavals of land mass -- which prepares the way for the Prince of Light. We might wonder whether the pattern of darkness to light, the idea that it is always darkest before it becomes light, has its origin in the Velikovskian catastrophic events. Lastly, this transition is described as a reorientation, caused by a great star falling from heaven and stopping time, after which there is a new heaven -- a different configuration of stars relative to Earth's new axis -- and a new earth, new lands thrust up and others submerged, new poles and equator, new cardinal points relative to the rising and setting of the sun, new seasons, new topography. In sum, disaster leads to survival. All is changed, but it is for the better.

It is to the artistic ramifications of this hopeful attitude that I now address myself, for they provide us with a clear insight into what might have happened between the events themselves and their emergence into art, into how human nature can make the unpleasant palatable and even helpful. Towards the end of his essay, Davidson observes

To be sure, Cleopatra, like Venus and her protege Helen, contributed to the fall of a city and/or empire because of a passionate attachment, but nevertheless may not be seen only as a symbol of a passion which ought at all costs to be resisted. For, had not Antony yielded to passion, his life would hardly have appeared as appealing or as suitable for being mirrored in art.55

This is a form of having one's cake and eating it, which Shakespeare, as a great artist representing mankind, achieves on our behalf. By depicting the planets as humans, he makes them weak, even despicable; this is our revenge for what they did to us; but the humans, no matter how much we revile them, are based upon planets, great and terrifying stars which once moved erratically in the skies, and we fear they may do so again, and so we must also placate them, which we do by giving them -- planet and surrogate -- a final greatness quite different from their earlier pettiness. This is what happens to the disruptive lovers, for, when they are dead, Octavius Caesar praises them, and

Caesar's attitude reflects quite clearly the sympathy and wonder with which the audience is encouraged to look upon the tragic events at the end* of the lives of Antony and Cleopatra.56

[* Italics mine.]

Cleopatra is transformed, apotheosized, but the key element in her transformation is that she is rendered safe.

She longs no longer for any earthly man, but strongly desires immortality. She shall never again taste the earthly wine from Egypt's grapes, nor may she participate again in any earthly revels.... Her baser elements are purged away so that her love may pull her up to where her desire rests upon the spirit of Mark Antony in bliss.57

In celestial terms, Venus is being forever separated from any connection with Earth. She will not be like mankind, which tastes wine and participates in revels, and is mortal. She will be immortal, but distant. She will be revered and honored because mankind can now afford to do it, because Cleopatra is no longer a wandering comet, which might be dangerous, but a star in a fixed orbit. This is a triumph of the mind and imagination of man, for

the immortality which Cleopatra, under the guise of the goddess Venus, achieves, is after all the immortality which art, not religion, has to offer.58

Art, and myth, the concealing and transforming process of the human mind, make the best of what had at first been a rather terrifying situation.

The common Venus, who stood behind the Cleopatra whose mind always has been focused on the delight associated with generation, in the end by contraries melts into the heavenly Venus who sets forth to take her last immortal journey.59

Who, we should read instead, by setting forth on this last journey, which implies that she will not return, is rewarded with immortality.

Like Tasso who attempts to convert his witch Armida after Rinaldo is rescued from her power. Shakespeare insists upon transforming the destructive passion which Cleopatra represents into its seeming opposite.60

The same occurs with Antony. He

at last is lifted up to a new and greater heroism by his martyrdom and by the miracle of love. At the death of "Herculean Antony," Cleopatra laments that the gods have "stol'n our jewel" (VI.v.78), but he is then set as a star in the heavens toward which Cleopatra may now steer her course.61

This means, of course, that he becomes an example of a status which she too can now seek to attain, a status granted to the dead Antony because he is now like a twinkling star, distant and safe. In life he was like a dangerous planet, and so feared, whereas in death he is neutralized and so can be venerated.

Because of his acts, he ironically* will become the immortal object of wonder and the subject of art.62

[*Italics mine.]

Both of them are in fact repelled, exiled to new orbits, and the vision is cosmic.

Shakespeare at both ends of his drama is echoing the Apocalypse, xxi. 1-2: 'And I sawe a new heaven, and a new earth.... And I John sawe the holie citie newe Jerusalem come downe from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride trimmed for her husband. " Thus Cleopatra, who has been imaged forth in the play even as the great Whore of the Apocalypse, in the final portion of the play is portrayed as analogous to the "bride" of the great bridegroom Christ, who indeed when he returns for the second time will usher in a new heaven, a new earth, and an eternity of love which is not diminished by illusion .63

We must remember first that, at the beginning of the play, Antony and Cleopatra had wanted to create their own private new heaven and new earth, 1.1. 17, which would have benefitted them alone, whereas now a new heaven and new earth have indeed been created for all of mankind -- new stars, new planets, new direction -- out of their diminution, and second, that Velikovsky has identified certain angels with planets, for now, when they no longer threaten earth, the lovers are made angelic.

The imperial spirit of Antony, generous and great, is placed at least in imagination among the angels. Mark Antony indeed will be remembered thus, for he has been miraculously converted into angelic substance as a result of the gnosis of Shakespeare's art.64

If we look at the process in celestial terms, trying to decipher what the human motives are behind this artistic transformation, we can see a transition from menace to safety. Antony and Cleopatra have been made to exchange dangerous mortality for safe immortality, a gangster's notoriety for a statesman's or benefactor's fame. This is the only kind of greatness they can be permitted, an abstract, disembodied magnitude, for greatness on earth has proved too dangerous. It is true that they were tremendously influential on earth, both as human personages in a worldwide political battle and as planetary personages in a cosmic battle, but they were also destructive, and so by proxy the planets for which Antony and Cleopatra stand are being punished through their human representatives, who are vilified and defeated, and then, like all scapegoats, trimmed like monarchs before their death and expulsion and subsequent glorification. It is a form of revenge upon the planetary powers, and a satisfying one too, for, by exhibiting desire but making morality triumph, it lets us experience vicariously and for a controlled time the secret desire to be as free-flying and destructive as the planets, but then, because we know that such behaviour is harmful, and therefore wrong, it lets a pair of scapegoats suffer for our brief wildness. The best of this experience applies to us, and the worst to Antony and Cleopatra, who carry our earthly evil away in their destruction, and then have a distant celestial greatness conferred upon them for it.

* * * * *

I said at the outset that my paper is intended to be a beginning, not a body of rigidly-proved propositions, and so, in this last section, I wish to step back from the plays themselves and look at some of the larger implications of what I have just said.

First, let us explore the relation between individual and collective human nature. Not all psychologists accept the idea of a subconscious or unconscious, but, for the sake of this paper, I will assume that it exists. If we go further and accept Jung's concept of a collective unconscious, which he defines as a racially-inherited set of paradigms, of master plans for dream, myth and narrative, then it seems to me, pace Jung, that this must necessarily imply collective memories, transmission of collective knowledge, and thus a collective mind, which I take to be the sum or repository of man's noteworthy collective experiences. In the knowledge-assimilation process, it is the long-term storage sector.

Now, taking this assumption as a starting point, we then consider the possible effects of the Velikovskian cataclysms. If such horrible events have occurred -- and indeed there appear to have been more than two instances -- can we not imagine them causing collective traumas on each occasion, one reinforcing the other, burning their imprint onto the collec- tive memory? Looking at mankind as a collectively traumatized being, we may then wonder what collective defense mechanisms man might erect so that the horrible memory of the catastrophes, the conscious realization of which would make our living unbearable, is suppressed. How would we bury the memories, and then, what collective neuroses or delusions would we produce in their stead to let us cope with existence?

Dr. Velikovsky has argued that, unconsciously, the result is a collec- tive amnesia, and he has also urged that, as a byproduct of this collective amnesia, most of our religion, myth and folklore are an unconscious attempt by man to sublimate repressed unbearable fact into conscious bearable illusion. The common purpose of these illusions, he says, which are produced universally, is to describe, and thus render friendly and controllable, that which would otherwise remain unknown and therefore apparently uncontrollable. Through them, an explanation is offered for everything, from the sparrow's fall to the largest disturbance. In this way, our fears are assuaged, for we feel we are placed in a benevolent relation- ship with forces which would otherwise appear too powerful for human influence. I then ask, can we not apply the same dictum to narrative art?

What I suggest is that, if we do possess unconscious collective memories of enormous natural catastrophes, then the collective function of the narrative artist may be to calm our fears by creating narratives in which the catastrophes may be let loose in disguise, examined in all their horror, and then overcome. That is to say, just as, in a neurotic traumatized individual, some part of his mind creates the delusions which permit him to cope with his existence, so the artist, as a part of a collec- tively traumatized society, creates collective delusions for that society.

Thus, it may be that the enduring artistic narrative endures, remains permanently relevant, because it provides a medium for expression and thus release of collective apprehension. It is a collective defense mechanism against enduring collective fears, and a comparison may be made with children's fairy tales. It seems to me that a chief function of these stories is to diminish a child's apprehensions about huge, uncon- trollable forces, represented in the stories by a giant, bear, or wolf. The fairy tales actually speak of these huge figures, and make them placable, even defeatable. Without wanting to oversimplify great works of art, I suggest that they are in a sense adult fairy tales, and that they perform the same function at a more sophisticated level. They imply a rational and sometimes beneficent order in the huge and otherwise irrational universe. That may be why the enduring narratives of almost every human society are so similar in structure and intent each collectively neurotic society, suffering from the same catastrophic trauma, must produce its own artis- tic delusions, tailored and adapted to individual circumstances, but of common, universal origin.

There is, however, a very significant difference between a traumatized individual and a traumatized society. When an individual appears to be psychotic, or neurotic, the aim of society is to cure him, to rid him of his excesses, so that he may become like other men. With a collective neurosis, however, there is no such aim, because the patient -- society -- is also the judge of acceptable behaviour, and a neurotic who thinks he can only survive behind his delusional defenses is hardly going to set out to cure himself. Instead, where the neurotic condition is communal throughout society, the creators of illusion for society are not eliminated, but honored and encouraged. That which is feared by a group in a neurotic individual is admired by the neurotic group in itself, and thus, the more an artist, as a member of a neurotic group, calms its fears with his fables, the more it applauds him.

I therefore wish to propose a new interpretation of what happens when man reacts to art. I suggest that it occurs at two levels, the second being caused by the first. The first level of response, of course, is conscious. It is intellectual and emotional, being the product of the artist's technical expertise in his metier, and the ideas, themes, feelings and suggestions which the work stimulates within us as a result of that expertise. The quality of both these factors determines how deeply we respond to the total work in a personal, conscious way, which I prefer to call aesthetic involvement. Virtually all literary criticism must restrict itself to this, as it has done since Aristotle.

It is only with the advent of psychological and anthropological criticism that we have considered looking beneath the surface, beneath the conscious, to try to discover whether there are subterranean reasons why man creates art, and why his fellow men are moved by it. I suggest, of course, that there are indeed such subterranean reasons, that we are moved by deep, unconscious factors, as I have just outlined, and therefore I feel that these produce a reaction to art rather different from the aesthetic involvement which I have described above. To distinguish what happens at a subterranean level, I shall call it racial involvement. Where aesthetic involvement is personal and conscious, racial involvement is collective and unconscious. The first is as old as one's age, the second is as old as historical man. I feel that, if a work is to affect us profoundly, then aesthetic involvement must occur first, or we are simply turned off by a work's ineptitude; but, once we are gripped and involved and reacting aesthetically in a positive way to a great narrative, that is when a deeper level of response, racial involvement, is able to be awakened and called into play. The element of the narrative which calls forth aesthetic involvement is its literary and dramatic excellence, as described above; that which calls forth racial involvement is the structure of the narrative, by which I mean the extent to which the catastrophic pattern and details are embedded or embodied in it. The closer this structure comes to the catastrophic events, the more powerfully will the work affect us at a subterranean level, because the real events have been fixed in our unconscious memories as part of our racial inheritance, and thus we will respond deeply, albeit unconsciously, to a narrative which contains them to a high degree. As a result, I feel that only when racial involvement occurs will a narrative endure as a human statement meaningful to other men in different times. It talks to the future because it tells of the past.

To be more precise, it is not simply the catastrophic parallels in a narrative which grip us, but, even more, the way in which the narrative is resolved. When it recalls the terrifying events of the past, but then moves to a unifying, harmonizing, stable conclusion, we accept and approve and applaud, for in such a narrative we have seen the racial fears exposed but then controlled, which means that we have not simply been reminded, but comforted. The fear has been brought forth only so that it can then be put away again in tranquility.

It must be understood, however, that the artist who does this for us never has the slightest conscious inkling that this is what he is doing. If he did, he might never create at all. When he reproduces catastrophic patterns, in a process which no one yet understands, it all occurs at a level which, for want of a better term, I call unconscious, or pre-conscious, or transcendental, or instinctive. What I'm trying to say is that somehow, without his being aware of it, the great artist's creative faculty can tune into the wavelength of our racial memories to find there the grand schematic designs of his art. This is what makes him an enduring artist, for, when the design is there, we respond to it subconsciously because it is also racially in us. Only the artist can produce the pattern, but all men can respond to it.

Yet, there is a curious rider to this point. We are comforted by a great narrative, but we must never let ourselves consciously recognize that this has happened. We must act as if there were no anxiety which needed comforting, and, therefore, as if such comforting could not have occurred. This is the ultimate in both having our cake and eating it -- to use a great narrative to comfort our suppressed collective fears, and yet pretend there are no fears to be comforted. It is a game that we play with ourselves, so that we can endure the memories of the past. It is our way of feeling that we have the past -- and thus the future -- under control, and thus, when a certain work of art permits us to play this game as we want it played, we respond very positively. Yet neither side, creator nor receiver, knows that the game is being played; neither side consciously knows that such a game exists; but that is what is going on when a work of art remains meaningful to many generations of mankind -- we are responding unconsciously to the catastrophic patterns and comforting resolution in it. It is a transaction between creator and receiver carried out entirely at an unconscious level.

In presenting this theory of literary creativity and response, I am not breaking entirely new ground, for, in one sense, I am following a path first set out by the advocates of archetypal criticism. This approach centers first of all about the ideas of Carl G. Jung, and in particular his concepts of the collective unconscious or racial memory and the archetype in dream, myth and literature. To Jung, all three forms of expression are rooted in the same ground, the universal human psyche, and so

The great artist. . . is the man who possesses "the primordial vision," a special sensitivity to archetypal patterns and a gift for speaking in primordial images, which enable him to transmit experiences of the "inner world" to the "outer world" through his art form.65

In trying to explain both literary inspiration and literary function, Jung decides that

the artist is "man" in a higher sense -- "collective man" -- and that "the work of the poet comes to meet the spiritual need of the society in which he lives."66

A second major source has been the work of a group called the Cambridge Hellenists, who, early in this century, applied anthropological insights into myth and ritual to literature. Their inspiration was Sir James G. Frazer's The Golden Bough, and it is from these two roots -- social psychology and cultural anthropology -- that archetypal and mythic criticism have grown, in such landmark works as Maud Bodkin's Archetypal Patterns in Poetry, Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism and Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God. All of these people are concerned to discover the identity of the universal attraction in literature.

For it is with the relationship of literary art to "some very deep chord" in human nature that mythological criticism deals. The mythic critic is concerned to seek out those mysterious artifacts built into certain literary "forms" which elicit, with almost uncanny force dramatic and universal human reactions. He wishes to discover how it is that certain works of literature, usually those that have become, or promise to become, "classics," image a kind of reality to which readers give perennial response -- while other works, seemingly as well constructed, and even some forms of reality, leave us cold.67

They, and all serious students of the topic, unanimously assert that myth is truth, powerful and meaningful, and that it is somehow magically alive in literature.

Concerning the origin of these archetypes, however, different schools of thought exist. For most traditional anthropologists, the images derive from natural phenomena, in particular the recurring seasonal and solar events, and are passed from generation to generation in ritual and myth. They are poetic, imaginative explanations of the world, inherited through cultural instruction and designed to promote fertility and thus life. For the Jungians, and, more recently, for anthropologists such as Claude Levi Strauss, the archetypes are inherent in, or a product of the structure of, the human mind. Myth is therefore described as a sort of collective dream, built of universal, non-rational human components. As Jung says,

. . . these psychic instincts "are older than historical man, . . . have been ingrained in him since earliest times, and, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche."68

Levi-Strauss seems to be arguing along the same line when he claims

We are not, therefore, claiming to show how men think the myths, but rather how the myths think themselves out in men and without men's knowledge.69

It is here that I must part company with both schools, with the Frazerians because they derive myth and literature predominantly from vegetation cycles, and with the Jungians and Levi-Straussians because they are content merely to note that a tendency to produce archetypal images or patterns exists in the human mind, or psyche, and that such images or patterns exert a perennial and universal power over human imaginative response. They never seek to discover why our minds, or our psyches, are set up in this manner. I feel, of course, that Dr. Velikovsky has shown us the answer, or at least one answer. If he's correct, then the archetypes are neither coded vegetation symbols nor natural manifestations of the constitution of the psyche or the brain, but repressed memories of catastrophic events, which manifest themselves in disguise as the master elements in narrative art.

If the great works of narrative art are studied in this light, a main reason for their continued power to affect us may emerge -- they talk to us about our grandest conceptions, and comfort us about our deepest fears, fears we could not otherwise look at. Shakespeare is the most universal of narrative artists; his fables appeal to more men, in more different societies, from the most primitive to the most advanced, than any other body of created art. I have felt for some years that this is partly because Shakespeare's works touch a number of universal chords, to which all men respond at a primitive, subconscious, almost instinctual level, but I have never been able to formulate with any satisfactory precision what those chords might be. Dr. Velikovsky may have supplied us with the answer.

Now, if this be true, the implications go much further. In an address to the symposium on his work held at Lewis and Clark University in 1972, Dr. Velikovsky referred to his early detractors -- whose names are justifiably dirtied by history -- as 'guardians of the skies.' He himself has not explained precisely what he meant, but the phrase has intrigued me. Guardians of what? Or rather, from what? From the truth, I suggest, and this is the next point I wish to make. I am proposing that such people, recognized authorities in their field at the time, astronomers in the main, were not as interested in seeking for truth as in preventing certain truths from becoming known, and that the way they sought to achieve this was by presenting a partial truth which omitted so much that the resulting distortion did not approach the whole truth, but was virtually an untruth. In pretending to reveal, their intention was to conceal, and, most important, I suggest that all of this happened at a subconscious level. They did not consciously know why they behaved in this way.

To grasp why they may have done this, we must compare these 'guardians of the skies' to a psychotic or neurotic who has constructed successful delusional strategies against reality because he has no desire to face reality truthfully. He must therefore reject, tune out, even attack, whatever conflicts with his delusions. In classical psychiatry, I am told, one of the most delicate steps in the process of cure is the way in which the doctor communicates to his patient the actual causes of his disturbed behaviour. If this is not done successfully, the patient will react with hostility and reject the truth outright. If we accept that collective man has produced various delusional defenses against the fear engendered by the collective trauma, as I have argued earlier, then he obviously has little wish to have the trauma revealed. He will fight tenaciously to retain his world of delusion, to conceal reality from himself. He will hate those who try to show him otherwise, and he will fool himself into ignoring the truth whenever he happens to come close to it.

But man is a rational animal, even though part of him may be collectively disturbed, and so he must be very clever about fooling himself or he will see through the attempt. Furthermore, he will naturally hate anyone violently who tries to show him what he is really doing. Now, it seems to me that the attacks upon Dr. Velikovsky have been basically irrational. An irrational act as I define it is one which appears to have no intelligent, reasoned motive, but seems to be performed upon deep inner emotional compulsion, against reason, and the attacks on Dr. Velikovsky seem to me to be insanely compulsive. It is apparent that the normally intelligent and self-disciplined people, who suddenly become possessed by the fierce, total, unrelenting hatred which Dr. Velikovsky's ideas can provoke in certain cases, were violating the most fundamental principles of order of their own professions. They were behaving like blindly hostile neurotics and never seem to know it. In case after case the reaction was the same, as if all were suffering from a common madness, betraying their own selves.

The cause of this phenomenon, I suggest, is that these people were not acting as scientists, or academics, but as people, man, frightened and neurotic man unwilling to face the truth, trying desperately to keep it concealed from himself. I would thus label the hostility to Dr. Velikovsky not so much an irrational reaction as an unconscious reaction -- against the truth which their own theories had kept safely hidden, but which Dr. Velikovsky's theories threatened to reveal.

I must emphasize again that these deeds, and the reasons for them, all originate subconsciously. Velikovsky's fanatical detractors did not and do not consciously know what they were doing, nor why, any more than a neurotic can recognize the basis of his hatred for the doctor who seeks to show him the truth about himself, but each type is nevertheless driven subconsciously to attack the truth in order to retain the lie which gives him comfort.

And so they attacked him, to try to kill his ideas before they spread, before enough susceptible people would be infected by his plague. Their common madness on this point, so unlike what these people otherwise were, suggests a common cause -- that Dr. Velikovsky was about to let a terrible skeleton out of the closet, and they were rushing desperately to try to shut the door. It is as if there were an unwritten, unspoken and indeed unconscious taboo against dealing with the possibility of catastrophism and thus celestial instability, and Dr. Velikovsky, who had broken it, must be destroyed.

That is why they are 'guardians of the skies.' The astronomy and geology and biology which they had constructed was apparently true, but, being uniformitarian, it was only a partial truth, revealing enough to keep man happy, but concealing what man should not know.

The implications go further, for, if we consider man in this light -- striving to erect what appear to be perfectly rational intellectual disciplines, but which are actually carefully-disguised half-truths designed to suppress the whole truth from himself -- then all areas of human endeavor become suspect. Is science the supreme disinterested search for truth, or a principal weapon in the fight against truth? In the play Macbeth, the two victorious Scottish generals Macbeth and Banquo are accosted by the Witches and given tempting predictions, some of which instantly come true. Macbeth appears to be succumbing, and so Banquo warns him

But 'tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray'sv
In deepest consequence.
Macbeth, I .3. 122-126 .

Perhaps it is the same, for example, with Newton and Darwin, whose descriptions of the cosmos and life respectively appear to explain all, but may in fact only explain enough to keep us from suspecting there is anything more, winning us with trifles while betraying us indeed where the consequences are deepest. The pictures these men paint have a very pacifying effect. They tell us that the universe runs like a clock, and that life on earth has been developing in an equally bucolic way. There are occasional lapses from form, like comets or tempests, but these, we are told, are minor aberrations, hardly noticeable in the long run against the slow, steady clockwork of the cosmos. Are these men purveyors of truth, or 'guardians' of celestial and biological mechanics? Are scientists unconsciously structuring their discoveries, not to give us the truth about our world, but to foster the illusion that we control it? Is science a collective delusion too?

It may be that certain types of literary criticism function in the same way, for most criticism has been kept within safe bounds -- character, plot, style, tone, theme, image, language -- none of which will lead to the taboo question of catastrophism. It is perhaps not a coincidence that New or Formalist Criticism, which is a desire to study a literary work in a vacuum, so to speak, has emerged in the last few decades coincident with our questioning of uniformitarian science. Formalist criticism looks at a work without reference to who wrote it, or when, or where, or what else he wrote, or what type it fits into, or what else was being written at the time, or what traditions seem to have influenced the author, and so on. It may be that the closer we get to recognizing the truth about catastrophism, the more arduously has Formalist criticism tried to steer us onto purely aesthetic paths. I do not say it is wrong, any more than Newton or Darwin are wrong, but I do suggest that what Formalism excludes is more important than what it includes, and so the final picture which it offers is untrue. The Formalist critic may be the 'guardian of the fable.'

What I propose instead, in the realm of literary criticism, is a Velikovskian aesthetic, a full, multi-disciplined, completely honest approach to narrative art, and to drama in particular, the most public narrative art. Each instance must not continue to be judged exclusively as a private individual artifact, but, like war and government and myth, as a product of collective man in response to our collective nature and experiences; not simply in terms of what we consciously discover about what the author has consciously created, but in terms of unconscious collective motives which may drive artists to create, and the unconscious collective ways in which we may respond to them.

This is becoming more acceptable in the social sciences, where we admit the possibility of unconscious motivation in various fields of human behaviour, but we are not as willing to allow unconscious motivation, much less unconscious collective motivation, in narrative art. The result is a very limited approach to literature and drama. To analyze a novel, for example, strictly in terms of its purely literary characteristics, may be to miss the forest for the trees. It is like an opera teacher analyzing the purely vocal quality of a person's scream for help. The novel is of course a privately fabricated work of art, but it may be other things as well -- a product of a certain group or time or culture or race, a reaction to certain common events or conditions, a product of man bearing a relation to other different human products -- and therefore it must be analyzed not simply by a literary approach, but by a nonliterary or superliterary approach as well, one which is based upon historical and scientific and cultural insights in addition to purely literary concerns. Like war and the generals, narrative art is too important to be left strictly to the professors of English.

When I say this, I do not mean to downgrade art, nor to imply that all examples, of good, bad or indifferent quality, are ultimately the same because they perform the same function. The work of art is one of the chief glories of mankind, one the greatest products of the human spirit, but to say that, no matter how true, is to look at art in conscious aesthetic terms alone, to see it only with reference to deliberate artistic creativity and those standards relevant to that domain. What I have been discussing makes no attempt to undermine that type of approach, for narrative art can be many things at once, but rather tries to suggest that there may be other approaches, equally relevant ones, which see a work of art in different contexts. If art is judged as art, then questions of evaluation and interpretation are in order, for these are indeed some of the main functions of criticism. However, when art is considered anthropologically, as a human activity among other equally significant human activities, questions of relative artistic merit among different individual works are no longer relevant. Instead, one is concerned with the activity's function, its social purpose, to see what it can tell us about human nature, about what constitutes man. This sort of approach is neither better nor worse than the others, it is merely different, and equally legitimate. It does not seek to detract from one's enjoyment of, or admiration for, a great work of art, nor does it attempt to diminish the stature of created art. It rather hopes to enrich one's experience of the work itself by using the work as a key to gain insight into the nature of man. If we are indeed rational creatures, we must do no less.


29. Clifford Davidson. 'Antony and Cleopatra': Circe, Venus and the Whore of Babylon. Unpublished manuscript, Chapter VI.
30. Davidson, 150.
31. Davidson, 152-153.
32. Davidson, 155.
33. Davidson, 154.
34. Davidson, 154-155.
35. Davidson, 155.
36. Davidson 158.
37. Davidson 165.
38. Davidson, 165.
39. Davidson 152.
40. Davidson 152.
41. Unpublished manuscript.
42. Davidson 151.
43. Davidson 167.
44. Davidson, 167
45. Davidson, 154.
46. Worlds In Collision, 259.
47. Davidson, 154.
48. Davidson. 167.
49. Davidson, 168.
50. Public address at the symposium Velikovsky and the Recent History of the Solar System. McMaster University. Hamilton, Ontario. June 16 19, 1974.
51. Davidson 168.
52. Davidson 170.
53. Davidson, 156.
54. Davidson 156-157.
55. Davidson 170.
56. Davidson, 171.
57. Davidson, 171
58. Davidson, 172.
59. Davidson 172.
60. Davidson 173.
61. Davidson 172.
62. Davidson 151.
63. Davidson, 174.
64. Davidson, 175.
65. Wilfred L. Guerin et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. Harper and Row, New York, 1966 136
66. Guerin, 136.
67. Guerin, 116.
68. Guerin, 135.
69. Edmund Leach. Levi-Strauss. Fontana Modern Masters. Fontana Collins, London, 1971.

 home       features       science/philosophy       wholesale store        policies        contact
Mikamar Publishing, 16871 SE 80th Pl,  Portland  OR  97267       503-974-9665