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Open letter to science editors
KRONOS Vol III, No. 3
Quartered At Yale
Copyright © 1977 by Immanuel Velikovsky
"Quartered at Yale" is a section from the Memoirs to Worlds in Collision. The Memoirs, a
documented history of the origin of Worlds in Collision and its reception from 1946 to 1953, was
put together by Velikovsky in the fall of 1954, and is not published.
* * *
Four Yale professors united their forces to disprove
Worlds in Collision. Together they
prepared an article for the American Journal of Science published at Yale. The editor, Professor
Chester R. Longwell, himself a geologist and one of the four authors, arranged to have this article
printed in the daily press, too, in advance of its appearance in the Journal. In the New Haven
Register for June 25, 1950, the large blue letters of a six-column headline announced: "4 Yale
Scholars 'Expose' Non-Fiction Best-Seller."
The three other authors were K. S. Latourette, Sinologist, George Kubler, Mexicologist, and
Rupert Wildt, astronomer.
Professor Latourette, who, as a missionary, spent many years in China, put forth this argument
against my book: Velikovsky has generally preferred older sources, and according to modern views
Emperor Yao (Yahou) belongs to the legendary period of Chinese history (which is usually divided
into three periods: mythical or fabulous, legendary, and historical).
It can hardly be called an argument, still less an "exposure," since in my treatment I
deliberately use legendary material of ancient origin. King Yao is not my invention. "Every Chinese
schoolboy is familiar with the names of Yao, Shun, and Yu," says the same Latourette in his
Development of China (1917, p. 16). There he says also that "native historians" regard this period
in the Chinese past as completely historical. And the modern view of Western scholars is this: "Even
the historicity of the three [kings] is to be viewed with some doubt, but they are usually regarded as
authentic." This sentence is from the article, "China" in Encyclopedia Britannica (14th ed.), and the
author of the article is Latourette. An earlier authority, P. du Halde, in the second volume of his
of China, says that "should anybody question the historicity of Yao, he would not only be
ridiculed, but severely chastised." (He would probably be handled like a traditional Jew who
questioned the existence of Moses.)
"The history of China preceding his [Yao's] reign is ascribed to the mythical period of the
Chinese past," I wrote in Worlds in
Collision (pp. 100-101). "In the days of Yahou [Yao] the event
occurred which separates the almost obliterated and very dim past of China from the period that is
considered historical: China was overwhelmed by an immense catastrophe." Then I quoted the
numerous sources ("an amazing range of historical records," in Latourette's estimate). In the reign
of Yao for ten days the sun remained above the horizon; all the forests burned; a multitude of
"abominable vermin" was brought forth; an immense wave that "reached the sky" fell on China and
swept over high mountains; thereafter the lower regions of the country remained inundated for more
than two generations; the calendar was disordered, and it was also necessary to find anew the cardinal
points - east, west, north, and south - which was difficult because the land was covered with gloom
for many years. It is said also that a new bright star was born in the days of Yao.
All this, I demonstrated in my book, has exact counterparts in Jewish legends and traditions,
as narrated in the Scriptures, Midrash, and Talmud, relative to the time of the Exodus, and in
Egyptian traditions (and in Mayan) as well. The sole difference is that according to the Egyptian
source the sun remained below the horizon for nine days, causing the "Egyptian darkness" - or for
seven days according to Midrashic tradition. This shows there was no borrowing by the Chinese from
Egypt or Judea, nor the other way round, by Egypt or Judea from China, where tradition has the sun
remaining above the horizon.
Nothing of this was questioned by Latourette. So what did he disprove or expose?
George Kubler, Professor of the History of Art at Yale and a student of Mesoamerican
civilization, brought two issues to the discussion. He wondered that I interpreted the 52-year cycle
of the Mayas and Mexican Indians "as an historical survival of the terrors experienced between the
two 'contacts' of the Venus-comet with earth."
I have not concealed my sources. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, the early Mexican scholar
(ca. 1568-1648) who was able to read old Mexican texts, preserved the ancient tradition according
to which multiples of the fifty-two-year period played a prominent role in the recurrence of world
catastrophes. Also the Codex Vaticanus, one of the few manuscripts surviving from pre-Columbian
times, reckons world ages in multiples of fifty-two years. At the expiration of every fifty-two-year
period the natives of Mexico congregated to await a new catastrophe. "When the night of this
ceremony arrived, all the people were seized with fear and waited in anxiety for what might take
place," wrote Bernardino de Sahagun, the sixteenth century Spanish authority, regarded as the best
of all sources pertaining to Latin America. The Mexicans were afraid that "it will be the end of the
human race and that the darkness of the night may become permanent: the sun may not rise anymore."
They watched for the appearance of the planet Venus, and when on the dreaded night no catastrophe
befell them, the people of the Maya rejoiced. Great bonfires announced that a new period of grace
was granted and a new Venus cycle of 52 years started. The period is called the Venus cycle, as is
known to every student of Mexican lore [Seler, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 1, 618ff.]. Sahagun also
narrated that the Mexicans called a comet "a star that smoked"; the Mexicans likewise referred to
Venus as "a star that smoked". And G. A. Dorsey, of the Field Museum of Natural History,
described the ceremony of sacrifice to the Morning Star (Venus) as a "dramatization of the acts
performed by the Morning Star." A human offering was made by the Pawnee Indians as recently as
the last century, whenever Venus "appeared especially bright or in years when there was a comet in
the sky" [quoted from Worlds in Collision, pp. 153-4, 163-4, 192-3 ff.].
The other issue raised by Kubler concerns the date of the New Year of the Mexicans. He says
"The author lays great value upon the Mexican New Year date as February 26, Old
Style. His source here is a Jesuit, Father Acosta, who wrote ca. 1589. Acosta's source in
turn was Juan de Tovar, writing ca. 1585. These two writers stand alone in saying that the
Mexican year began on February 26. Nine other New Year days for the Mexican calendar
can be listed from equally reputable sources."
The printing of this passage in fat letters could convey the idea that here I was caught in a
Kubler does not deny that February 26 was, according to Acosta, the old Mexican New Year;
so I quoted a reputable source correctly. The fact that there were various New Year days only
supports my theory that following disturbances in the terrestrial rotation, the beginning of the year
in Mexico, as in other lands, was repeatedly shifted to new dates, and in another chapter of my book
I told of calendar reforms in ancient Mexico.
But why did Kubler say that I lay great value upon the Mexican New Year date of February
26? After referring to the Assyrian era of Nabonassar, used as an astronomical date even many
centuries later (by Claudius Ptolemy and others) and calculated by Assyriologists to have started on
February 26, -747, 1 injected the remark that the date "must be re-examined in the light of the fact
that further cosmic disturbances occurred during the decades that followed -747." I added: "It is
worth noting, however, that the ancient inhabitants of Mexico celebrated their New Year on the day
which corresponds, in the Julian calendar, to the same date: 'The first day of their year was the six
and twentie day of February.' " (J. Acosta, tr. 1604). This is the entire passage found in my book
concerning February 26 in the Mexican calendar; though I did not put "great value" on the date,
everything I said was precise, correct, careful, and cautious.
[An additional issue for which Professor Kubler took me to task concerned my dating of
certain events in Mesoamerican history (Worlds in Collision, p. 254): "The Mesoamerican cosmology
to which Velikovsky repeatedly appeals for proof did not originate and could not originate until about
the beginning of our era. Velikovsky alludes to Toltec-Aztec wars as possibly originating 'before the
present era'. . Toltec remains in Mexico and the Maya area are now dated before 1260 A.D. and
Aztec civilization is dated after 1360 A.D."
Only a few years later, measurements using the radiocarbon method of dating decided the
issue. I quote from a release of the National Geographic Society, made on Dec. 30, 1956: "Atomic
science has proved the ancient civilizations of Mexico to be some 1,000 years older than had been
believed, the National Geographic Society says.
"In findings basic to Middle American archaeology, artifacts dug up in La Venta, Mexico have
been proved to come from a period 800 to 400 years before the Christian era. Previously, they had
been assigned to 400 or 500 A.D., more than 1,000 years later.
"Cultural parallels between La Venta and other Mexican archaeological excavations enable
scientists to date one in terms of the others. Thus the new knowledge affects the dating of many
finds." (Also see Science, July 12, 1957.)]
Professor Rupert Wildt of the Yale Observatory directed his attack against what he considered
my convictions or my case of amnesia.
"No useful purpose would be served by summarizing here Velikovsky's 'evidence' for the
series of cosmic catastrophes that he supposes to have occurred between 1500 and 700 B.C. The
crucial point is that Velikovsky, in effect, repudiates his earlier rejection of Newton: 'The theory of
cosmic catastrophe can, if required to do so, conform with the celestial mechanics of Newton'
(Worlds in Collision, p. 384). But the readers of the book are spared the realization that its author
ever professed belief in what he called 'the empiric evidences of the fallacy of the law of gravitation'
(Cosmos Without Gravitation, p. 11).(1) "We look in vain for an explanation of what possessed the
man between 1946 and 1950 and cannot help wondering -- is this a case of individual amnesia
overtaking the author, or does he have so little respect for scientific critics as to rely on their
Wildt looked in vain, yet it was easy to find. Three pages after the sentence he quoted from
Worlds in Collision, and still in the same context, it is said (p. 387):
"Thus celestial mechanics does not conflict with cosmic catastrophism. I must admit,
however, that in searching for the causes of the great upheavals of the past and in considering
their effects, I became skeptical of the great theories concerning the celestial motions that
were formulated when the historical facts described here were not known to science. . . .
Fundamental principles in celestial mechanics, including the law of gravitation, must come
into question if the sun possesses a charge sufficient to influence the planets in their orbits or
the comets in theirs. In the Newtonian celestial mechanics, based on the theory of gravitation,
electricity and magnetism play no role."
Anyone who reads only the first page of
Worlds in Collision is informed that if Newton is
"sacrosanct, this book is a heresy."
Here I feel induced to quote Freud, from the preface to the second edition of his
Interpretation of Dreams:
"The few reviews which have appeared in the scientific journals are so full of
misconceptions and lack of comprehension that my only possible answer to my critics would
be a request that they should read this book again -- or perhaps merely -- that they should
read it!" [Translated by A. A. Brill.]
Last comes C. R. Longwell, who says that "the geologist is both amused and appalled by the
ideas and the methods of Dr. Velikovsky."
"In discussing the origin of petroleum he lists two theories - the inorganic and the organic -
but does not go on to inform the reader that to modern students of the subject the inorganic theory
has historical interest only."
Once more I am accused of hiding something from my readers. Yet on page 369 of
in Collision it is stated:
"The modem theory of the origin of petroleum, based upon its polarizing quality, regards
petroleum as originating from organic, not inorganic, matter."
I could not make it clearer. So much for my appalling method.
As to the geological aspect of the theory of
Worlds in Collision, Longwell says:
"Velikovsky raises anew the matter of 'erratic blocks' -- masses of rock that clearly have been
displaced through distances of tens or even hundreds of miles from the localities of their origin. No
problem that has confronted geologists seems to be more convincingly solved than this one. The
'erratics' occur only in areas that are known, on independent evidence, to have been covered with
glacier ice in the geologic past. . . . Every essential link from effect to cause has been adequately
supplied, in the judgment of informed students."
But the author of Worlds in Collision disregarded all the evidence accumulated in the course
of a hundred years and "wants the 'erratics' as witnesses to a gigantic tide that swept the lands during
his cosmic catastrophe," and "unhampered by any embarrassing facts, he rushes in with his own
Actually, I wrote that "the problem of the migration of the stones must be regarded as only
partially connected with the progress and retreat of the ice sheet . . ." (p. 76). (In
Earth in Upheaval
I give a more detailed treatment of the subject.) But already in
Worlds in Collision I pointed to the
embarrassing fact of stones transferred from plains up the mountains, though at present no such
phenomenon is observable in the mountains. Erratics were carried from India up the Himalayas.
They were also carried from equatorial Africa toward the higher latitudes, "across the prairies and
deserts and forests of the black continent." That not "every link" is supplied can be judged from the
words of Professor Reginald Daly of Harvard, who says that the Ice Age history of North America
"holds ten major mysteries for every one that has already been solved"
(The Changing World of the
Ice Age [Yale University Press, 19341, p. III), and that "the very cause of excessive ice-making on
the lands remains a baffling mystery, a major question for the future reader of earth's riddles" (Ibid.,
The statement that scientific study in the last hundred years has proved that erratics are found
only where other vestiges of ice movement are also present is embarrassingly wrong. Darwin
inquired and received the answer that in the Azores -- where there was no ice cover -- erratics are
found in abundance. Cummings described erratics carried high up on the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea,
and admitted that ice could not have transported them there. J. S. Lee, in his Geology of China ( 1939), described erratic blocks and at the same time the "general absence of ice-sculptured features"
in northern China, or "two sets of facts pointing in opposite directions" [pp. 367, 3731.
It happened that at about the time the American Journal of Science published the article by
the four scholars, I received a letter from one of my readers who referred to the problem of erratic
"What you have to say about glaciation may help to explain some of the difficulties in the
glacial theory. On Macquarie Island south of New Zealand, for instance, erratic boulders from the
western coast were carried to the eastern coast to a 750 feet higher elevation. By the glacial theory,
it is hard to explain why the glacier should have come from one side, instead of radiating from the
center, and why the erratics were lifted."
My work was torn apart at Yale. It was quartered by four famous professors. Yet, after
being executed, the book left the place unharmed.
To quote Victor Hugo: "And then, while critics fall foul of the preface and the scholars of the
notes, it may happen that the work itself will escape them, passing uninjured between their crossfires."
[ Preface to Cromwell (1827).]
1. . Cosmos Without Gravitation: Attraction, repulsion, and electromagnetic
circumduction in the solar system, Synopsis, 1946, was printed by me as a short monograph in
the series Scripta Academica Hierosolymitana; it was not offered for sale and was distributed
only to a number of physicists for scientific appraisal, and placed in some selected libraries. The
opening sentence is: "The fundamental theory of this paper is: Gravitation is an electromagnetic
phenomenon." -- a view heretical in 1946, but much considered in the 1970's. Various tests were
offered in the Synopsis for performance in laboratory or in space.