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Copyright (C) 1981 by the Estate of Immanuel Velikovsky

Editor's Note: This article is only part of a much larger work by Velikovsky titled Jupiter of the Thunderbolt. Its conception goes back to the 1940's when much of the material was first written. The present article has benefited from the editorial assistance of Jan Sammer who, unless otherwise indicated, added the bracketed referential material and fine-tuned the text. LMG


"With the end of the Tertiary period, in an event of extreme violence . . . the entire Syrian land, from its south end to its north end, was torn apart and the ground in between sank into the depths." So wrote Professor M. Blanckenhorn, the explorer of the region of the Dead Sea.(1) In his later work he advanced the age of the rift to the pluvial, or the beginning of the first glacial age. The origin of the Dead Sea occurred "in a great mountain movement, with collapse and dislocation, that took place at the beginning of the pluvial, in the first glacial period.... In these titanic events conditions were created for the existence of an inner sea."(2)

A period of dryness followed the first glacial, or pluvial period. In a new pluvial period, the second glacial epoch, the lake reached its greatest dimensions: the Dead Sea spread to the northern shore of the present Sea of Galilee, engulfing it together with the Jordan Valley between. At the time, as fossil snails show, the water was not yet saline.

[*!* Image]

The rift in which the Lake of Galilee, the Jordan and the Dead Sea lie is the deepest depression on land. The surface of the Dead Sea is close to 390 meters below the level of the Mediterranean, and its deepest bottom is some 335 meters lower. The shore falls steeply from the Judean mountains on the west; on the eastern side of the rift rise the Moabite mountains. The walls of the chasm show sharp broken strata that remained horizontal, which proves that the breaking down was instantaneous.(3) The force which caused this slide movement must have been stupendous. The ground of the rift around the Dead Sea is covered with coagulated lava masses, taking the form of an immense herd of giant elephants with rough skin. These lava eruptions from fissures are ascribed to the second interglacial period.(4) To the south of the Dead Sea towers a big cliff of salt called Jebel Usdum (Mount of Sodom). "It is absolutely impossible that salt sediment of a sea should precipitate in such a form."(5) "Only the rupture of the ground could create this site, singular in the entire world."(6)

Thermal springs bring salt to the Sea of Galilee, and the Jordan carries them to the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. From the surface of the Dead Sea, in the deep hot rift, the water evaporates, leaving the salts behind. By calculating the amount of salts in the sea and the amount that reaches it annually by way of the Jordan and other streams, as well as from thermal springs on its shores, the approximate age of the Dead Sea can be determined. Such an attempt was partially made. The magnesium salts in the Jordan served as a basis for the calculation. It was reckoned that the present annual rate of influx of magnesium in the water of the-Jordan alone, when related to the concentration of magnesium in the Dead Sea, should give a figure of approximately 50,000 years as the age of the sea.(7) The author of this estimate admitted that even this figure is probably too high; the salinity of the Jordan must have decreased with time, for the thermal sources carry more salt when they are young and their temperature is high.

In the above calculation, it was estimated that the Jordan carries six million tons of water daily to the Dead Sea and that it deposits 181 million pounds of magnesium annually. However, on an average day more than double that amount evaporates from the Dead Sea,(8) and as its surface does not fall, other sources must be making up the difference.

The rivers Zerka (Callirhoe) and Arnon, which flow into the sea from the east, carry salt solutions from many springs. The shores of the Dead Sea abound in highly concentrated thermal springs which contain rich amounts of magnesium. These sources flow directly into the sea, bringing a richer influx of magnesium than the Jordan.(9) In addition there are, on the shores of the Dead Sea, abundant vestiges of thermal springs with rich sediments of salts that are inactive at present.(10) It is highly probable, too, that there are submarine sources in the Dead Sea which may provide magnesium, but they are indeterminable.(11)

When these factors are taken into consideration the age of the Dead Sea, computed on the basis of its magnesium content, must be drastically reduced.

A computation that takes, as its basis, the amount of sodium in the Jordan points to a recent date for the origin of the Dead Sea. The proportion of sodium to magnesium in the water of the Jordan is about 4:1; in the Dead Sea it is 1:2.(12) If the Jordan were the only source of the sodium for the Dead Sea the age of the Dead Sea would be only about 6,000 years. But the thermal sources on the western, eastern, and southern shores contain sodium too; so may the submarine sources, which cannot be evaluated. It is likely, therefore, that the sea has existed for only about four thousand years. When again the fact is taken into account that the thermal sources are usually more concentrated when they first break out and when they are of a higher temperature, it may well be asked why the age of this sea should not be reduced still more. It is probable that deeper levels of water have a greater salt concentration.(13)

Fifty thousand years as the age of the Dead Sea was an unexpectedly low estimate: the rift in which the Dead Sea is situated is considered to be the result of a catastrophe at the beginning of the first glacial period.(14) Now a simple reckoning shows that the saline sea with the Jordan has not existed longer than five thousand years.

1. M. Blanckenhorn, "Entstehung und Geschichte des Todten Meeres," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, 19 (1896), p. 16.
2. Idem, Naturwissenschaftliche Studien am Tod ten Meer und im tal (Berlin, 1912);[Cf. R. Freund, et al., "The Shear along the Dead Sea Rift," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, A, Vol. 267 (1970), pp. 107-130.]
3. Blanckenhorn, "Entstehung und Geschichte des Todten Meeres," p. 26.
4. Ibid., pp. 41-42.
5. Ibid., p. 34.
6. Ibid., p. 35.
7. W. Irwin, "The Salts of the Dead Sea and River Jordan," Geographical Journal 61 (London, 1923), p. 434.
8. Ibid., pp. 435-436; [Cf. J. Neumann, "Tentative Energy and Water Balances for the Dead Sea," Bulletin of the Research Council of Israel, G, Vol. VII, nos. 2-3 (1958); Cf. also H. Haude, "Über Klimatische und menschliche Einwirkungen auf den Wasseraushalt des Toten Meeres in seiner Vergangenheit," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, 88 (1972), pp. 105-139.]
9. Blanckenhorn, "Entstehung und Geschichte des Todten Meeres," p. 29; Cf. L. Lartet, L'exploration géologique de la Mer Morte (1874), p. 297.
10. R. Sachsse, "Beiträge zur chemischen Kenntniss der Mineralien, Gesteine und Gewässer Palästinas," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, 20 (1897), pp. 25 ff., esp. p. 33; Cf. H. St. J. B. Philby, "The Dead Sea to 'Aqaba", the Geographical Journal, LXVI (1925).
11. Irwin, "The Salts of the Dead Sea," op. cit., p. 438.
12. Ibid., p. 434. [Cf. H. Boyko, Salinity and Aridity (The Hague, 1966), p. 15.]
13. The figures for magnesium according to Terreil, quoted by Irwin (p. 431), are: At the surface of the sea, at the north shore, magnesium constitutes 13.20 percent of solid salt; 120 meters below the surface, five miles east of Kasel Fesaka, magnesium amounts to 16.80 percent of the solid residue; and 300 meters deep at the same point, 15.99 percent. [From the account of Tacitus (Histories V.6) it would appear that the Dead Sea was already saturated with salts nineteen centuries ago.]
14. Blanckenhorn, Naturwissenschaftliche Studien am Todten Meer, p. 115.


The story of the violent changes that occurred in the Jordan Valley the memory of which is connected with the time of the patriarchs and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah does not mention that the Valley of Siddim, where the cities were located, became an inner sea. Sulphur and brimstone fell from heaven, one of the best cultivated areas was overturned, and fire from beneath and fire from above accomplished the desolation all this is described; but not at the appearance of a sea. However, when the Israelites under Moses and Joshua reached the area in their flight from Egypt, they found a sea there.(1) Thus, it seems to have appeared after a catastrophe later than the one that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

But if there were no Dead Sea much before the time of the Exodus whither did the Jordan flow, assuming it was already in existence? The Jordan might not have been in existence at all, or it could have flowed into the open sea, the Mediterranean.

Legendary reminiscences from the patriarchal age indicate that the Jordan existed before the Dead Sea came into being.(2) It appears that the coming out of Paddan-aram to Canaan required the passage of the river. Today the way from Palestine to the north does not require the crossing of water. The barrier between the Dead Sea and the Aqaba Gulf is 500 meters high. The watershed between the Jordan River and the Kishon River which flows into the Mediterranean, at Mount Gilboa, is 500 meters above the ocean level.

The topographical shape of the region of the Beth Shan Valley, stretching from the Jordan towards the Esdraelon Valley, makes the flow of the Jordan into the Mediterranean a far more acceptable conjecture than a presumed flow of the Jordan over the slopes of the mountain of Hor into the Red Sea. But if the Jordan had to flow through the Esdraelon Valley into the Mediterranean, it had to flow in a direction opposite to the one in which it flows today.

Does there exist any reminiscence about the Jordan changing the direction of its flow?

It is not the story in the book of Joshua about the Jordan halting its flow there it is told that the water was stopped at Adama, north of Jericho.(3) This indicates that the flow of the Jordan was already from north to south, as today. The existence of the Dead Sea is also mentioned at the time the Israelites approached Canaan, but it is described as recent: it is called "the sea of the plain".(4)

The blocking of the Jordan River by falling slices of the banks happened a number of times.(5) The stoppage referred to in the book of Joshua is described as a temporary blocking of the Jordan River in a time of frequent earthquakes, and not as a reversal of the flow.

But there are, in Scripture, references to the reversal of the flow of the Jordan:

When Israel went out of Egypt. . .
The sea saw and fled: Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like lambs
What ailed thee, o thou sea, that thou fleddest?
thou Jordan that thou was driven back?

Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord . . .
Which turned the rock into a standing water,
the flint into a fountain of waters.(6)

Here the reversal of the flow of the Jordan is associated in time not only with the Exodus and the catastrophe at the Sea of Passage, but also with the appearance of a new inner sea ("standing water").

A river that changed the direction of its flow must have been regarded as a very recent phenomenon.

An inscription of Thutmose I reads: "Frontier northern, as far as that inverted water which goeth down in going up."(7) In order to explain this passage it was supposed that the Egyptians could not imagine that a river flows otherwise than from south to north, as does the Nile, and they wondered at a river flowing in another direction. The Euphrates flows from the north-west to the south-east; the Orontes north to south for part of its course, afterwards turning west and emptying into the Mediterranean. The explanation is obviously inadequate. There are many rivers in the world and they flow in all directions. The river that reversed its direction is the Jordan.

Prior to the Exodus, the Jordan Valley was on a higher level than the Mediterranean Sea. With the rupture of the tectonic structure along the river and the dropping of the Dead Sea chasm, many brooks in southern Palestine which had been flowing to the south must have changed their direction and started to flow towards Palestine, emptying into the southern shore of the Dead Sea. This occurrence served as a symbolic picture for the dispersed Children of Israel, who also will return to their homeland: "Turn again our captivity as the streams in the south."(8)

The plain of Siddim became a sea. When Israel "wandered into the wilderness in a solitary way [the Lord turned] rivers into wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; and fruitful land into barrenness; [but elsewhere he turned] the wilderness into standing water, and dry ground into watersprings".(9)

1. Joshua 3:16; Numbers 34:12; Deuteronomy 3:17.
2. Genesis 13:10, 11; Cf. Genesis 14:3.
3. Joshua 3:16.
4. Joshua 12:3.
5. J. Garstang, The Foundations of Bible History (1931), p. 137; Cf. Worlds in Collision, section "Jericho", and my "Jericho" in KRONOS II:4 (Summer-1977), pp. 64-69.
6. Psalm 114.
7. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. III, par. 73.
8. Psalm 126:4.
9. Psalm 107:4, 33-35.


The site of the Dead Sea was a plain in the days of the patriarch Abraham. The Book of Genesis tells of Lot's arrival in the region, how he "lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well-watered everywhere . . . even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt".(1) Tacitus wrote that the plain was "fruitful and supported great and populous cities".(2)

The catastrophe which destroyed these cities is recounted in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis:

The sun was risen upon the earth when . . . the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground....

And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord; And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.(3)

The description of this upheaval has always aroused wonder: "There is clearly something unnatural or extraordinary that is recorded," one commentator wrote.(4)

Classical historians, speaking of the event, told of "fire from the sky". Tacitus narrated that the catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah was caused by a thunderbolt the plain was "consumed by lightning" and he added: "Personally I am quite prepared to grant that once famous cities may have been burnt up by fire from heaven."(5) Also Josephus asserted that the cities had been "consumed by thunderbolts".(6) Philo wrote that "lightnings poured out of heaven,"(7) destroying the cities.

The destruction of the cities of the plain and the overturning of the valley was, in my understanding, an event caused by an interplanetary discharge; and Jupiter was the planetary body involved.*

* [Cf. the remarks by James E. Strickling in SIS Workshop, Vol 2, No. 4 (April 1980), pp. 3-5 as well as those by B. O'Gheoghan in SIS Workshop, Vol 3, No. 1 (July 1980), pp. 29-30. See also D. B. Vitaliano, Legends of the Earth (Bloomington, 1973), pp. 88-91. LMG]

1. Genesis 13:10.
2. Histories V. 7. [According to Strabo (Geography XVI.2.44) there were "thirteen inhabited cities in that region of which Sodom was the metropolis". The Biblical account mentions five.]
3. Genesis 19: 23-25, 27-28.
4. J. Penrose Harland, "Sodom and Gomorrah," The Biblical Archaeologist Reader (New York, 1961), p. 61
5. Histories V. 7, transl. by K. Wellesley (London, 1964).
6. The Jewish War IV. 480.
7. Moses II. 53ff.


The time of the patriarch Abraham witnessed unusual behavior by the planet Jupiter. The fact that Jupiter exhibited certain activity exactly in the time of Abraham must not appear a coincidence: it was in times of great global catastrophes, when the world was threatened with destruction, that religious reformers gained prominence and contemporaries looked to a divine man for guidance. Thus the time of the great catastrophes of the Exodus saw Moses leading the Israelites from Egypt, to revelations and a covenant with God. And the time of the great upheavals of the eighth and seventh century before this era heard the voice of Isaiah. In later centuries, religious reformers found an especially large and responsive following when they announced the approach of the end of the world, or the beginning of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Numerous instances may be quoted, but the best known became the foundation of the religion of a large part of the Old and New World.

Zedek was the name of Jupiter, and we read that in the days of Abraham the planet underwent some visible changes.

[Rabbinical sources relate that when Abraham was on an expedition against Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and his allied kings who had captured and despoiled Sodom, and taken Abraham's nephew Lot into captivity the star Zedek illuminated the night, thereby ensuring the expedition's success.(1) JNS]

The Book of Genesis informs us that "the king of Sodom went out to meet him [Abraham] after his return from the victory over Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him. . . And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of the most high".(2) Abraham ceded to him [Melchizedek] the spoils of the war he had obtained in Syria from Chedorlaomer.

Ancient Salem was a holy place, and Palestine was a holy land from grey antiquity. Thus, in the documents of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, Palestine is named God's Land (Toneter), or Divine (Holy) Land.(3) Abraham, as I intend to show, must have lived at the end of the Old Kingdom in Egypt; and documents from that time already refer to Palestine as God's Land. But in early times, it was an astral god.*

* [Actually, only in very late times did the concept of an abstract god as opposed to an astral one begin to take root. LMG]

The meaning of the name Melchizedek is "Zedek is [My] King". Zedek, as stated, is the name of the planet Jupiter, remaining so in the astronomy of the Jews in later ages. In the Talmud, Zedek refers to Jupiter.(4) Zedek also has the meaning of "righteousness" or "justice". It is beyond the scope of this work to find which of the meanings the name of a planet or a word in common usage preceded and which followed. It is conceivable that this planet was worshipped in that remote time and that, in the days of the patriarch Abraham, the cult of Jupiter was prominent in Salem of the high priest Melchizedek. Melchizedek, "priest of the most high", was, it follows, a worshipper of Jupiter.*

* [Cf. "Jerusalem City of Venus", KRONOS III:3 (Spring 1978), pp. 66-67 LMG]

Melchizedek, the priest-king of ancient Salem, plays an important part in Christian catechism.(5)

1. [Rabbi Berkjah, quoted in Bereshit Rabba XLIII.3, translated by A. Ravenna (Turin, 1978), p. 328. JNS]
2. Genesis 14: 17-18. [Salem is considered to be the site of the later Jerusalem. Before Joshua's conquest of Jerusalem, the king of that city bore the name Adonizedek (Joshua 10:1, 3), an indication of continuing Jupiter worship among the Jebusites. JNS]
3. In Ages in Chaos, Vol. I, I have brought extensive material for the identification of the Divine Land with Palestine.
4. [Cf. W. M. Feldman, Rabbinical Mathematics and Astronomy (New York, 1931) JNS]
5. Cf. The Epistle to the Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1ff. [Cf. also F. Horton, The Melchzedek Tradition (Cambridge university Press, 1976) JNS]


In the Tractate Shabbat of the Babylonian Talmud it is said that in order to teach Abraham the futility and meaninglessness of astrology, the Lord let the planet Zedek, or Jupiter, change its rising point from west to east:

" 'Go forth (i.e., cease) thy planet-(gazing), for Israel is free from planetary influence. What is thy calculation? Because Zedek (Jupiter) stands in the West? I will turn it back and place it in the East.' And thus it is written, Who hath raised up Zedek from the East? He hath summoned it for his sake (sc. for the sake of Abraham)."(1)

This statement of the rabbis contains some contradictory ideas. Nevertheless, it may preserve certain elements of ancient lore.

The Babylonians described Marduk, or Jupiter, as having an eastward motion, different from the other planets: "The earliest system from Babylon has, however, East and West reversed, and assigns to its chief god Marduk, as god of the planet Jupiter, a definite easterly motion; to Mercury, on the other hand, a westerly one."(2)

"The Ra-mythology [of Egypt] is that which describes [Ra's] course from West to East."(3) Ra, rising in the west, was called "Harakhte, only god, king of the gods; he riseth in the west".(4) However, some hymns were addressed to "Ra when he riseth in the Eastern part of heaven".(5)

Egyptian lore also knew of a "Horus of the West" and a "Horus of the East".(6) Horus was the planet Jupiter.

The expression found in Latin literature, Jupiter Dianus,(7) or two faced, could be interpreted as denoting two motions of Jupiter, an eastward and a westward. This conforms with the same expression applied to the Sun where, as I endeavored to show, it denotes easterly and westerly movements of the luminary.(8)

The celestial mechanics of the implied reversal of Jupiter's apparent motion remains unsolved. Jupiter apparently changed the place of its rising point without a similar and simultaneous change by the Sun and all the planets and stars. It might seem that in order for Jupiter alone to be subject to change a reversal of orbital motion is required, an unlikely proposition from the point of view of celestial mechanics.

Earlier we asked in relation to Saturn's great prominence, was not the Earth at some early period a satellite of that planet?; and we may ask again, with the ascendance of Jupiter, was it (the Earth) not in the domain of this successor to the celestial throne?

If there is truth in the surmise, and it is nothing more than a surmise, that the Earth was once a satellite of a giant planet, the latter must have revolved closer to the Sun in order that the Earth should receive heat from it the giant planets presently radiate little heat and if the Age of Kronos was a Golden Age, then it is also proper to assume that the conditions on the satellite Earth were not unfavorable for life.(9) The geological record documents extreme climates for the past of the Earth times when corals grew in the Arctic, and times when the Earth, partly even on the equator, was fettered by ice. Such climates require definitely abnormal conditions that could be created only by varying positions of our planet as an astronomical body.(10) Therefore, surmises as made in this section are not in conflict with geological and paleoclimatological records; yet it is not what could have taken place, but what did take place or the historical record that is the proper goal for inquest. In the absence of direct indications we may only deal with the problem of the Earth as a satellite of a giant planet as with a hypothetical construction, requiring further elucidation. Theoretically, if the Earth were revolving around Jupiter, a reversal of its north and south geographical poles would cause Jupiter to appear to change the point of its rising.(11)

1. Shabbat 156b (I. Epstein ed., [London, 1935]). Cf. Isaiah 41:2. "Zedek also has the meaning of "righteousness" or justice and therefore the sentence is often rendered incorrectly as: "Who raised up the righteous (man) from the east. Cf. Hommel, JSOR (1927).
2. H. Winckler, Die Babylonische Geisteskultur (Leipzig, 1919), second ed., p. 72.
3. L. Frobenius, Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes (Berlin, 1904), p. 170.
4. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt III. 18. Cf. F. Meyer, Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache (1877), pp. 148 ff. [See also Worlds in Collision, pp. 107-108. LMG]
5. E.g., E. A. W. Budge ed., The Egyptian Book of the Dead (London, 1899), Chapter xv (Papyrus Ani), p. 246.
6. S. Mercer, Horus, Royal God of Egypt (Grafton, Mass. 1942),pp. 48, 117.
7. Frazer, Ovid's Fasti (Loeb Classical Library, 1931), note to p. 388.
8. [Cf. the ancient view, referred to by Macrobius (Saturnalia VIII) that the two faces of Janus symbolize the god's power over the two gates of the sky ("et ideo geminum, quasi utriusque januae coelestis potentem"). JNS; See Worlds in Collision, loc. cit. The complexity of the problem is further enlarged by the fact that Cardona has convincingly argued for the identification of Ra with Saturn in earlier times (see "Let There be Light", KRONOS III:3, pp. 44 ff.; "Saturn As King", KRONOS IV:3, pp. 91-93; so too, R. Ashton in "The Age of Purple Darkness", unpublished). LMG]
9. [The range of thermal inputs for a habitable Earth, such that the biosphere neither bakes nor freezes, places severe constraints on the Earth's distance from the Sun. This, in the absence of any elucidation of the means by which a Jovian giant might have provided insolation to a satellite Earth during a "Golden Age". CLE]
10. [This, of course, does not take into account plate tectonics which would explain the present anomalous conditions in terms of those land masses having been situated differently in the remote past. In the "Author's Note" to the Pocket Book edition of Earth in Upheaval (1977), Velikovsky expressed an openness to the idea of continents drifting while remaining "unswayed either by the enthusiasts or by their opponents" concerning the present plate tectonic model (cf. R. W. Wescott, KRONOS V:4, p. 85). CLE]
11. [Cf. P. Warlow, J. Phys. A., 11:10 (Oct. 1978), pp. 2107-2130; precis of the relevant phenomenon (inversion of Earth without inverting spin axis) in KRONOS V:4 (July 1980), p. 68. Warlow's analysis, which only considers a gravitational inversion of the Earth as a whole, has been shown to understate the required torque by at least a factor of 200 [see V. J. Slabinski, J. Phys. A. 14:9 (Sept. 1981)]. The required torque would be substantially reduced if the crust, as a spherical shell, were able to slip over the mantle. This would be facilitated if a) the shear zone (say the asthenosphere) were thixotropic, i.e., its viscosity and hence friction decreased with increasing shear and b) the equatorial bulge were accommodated in the shear zone. Rigorous quantitative modelling of geographical inversions is a largely undeveloped area which has yet to include electromagnetic effects. Velikovsky's statement above and the preceding comments only apply if the apparent motion of other celestial bodies also changed. CLE]


It has been observed since ancient times that lightning is attended by an odor of sulphur. In the twelfth book of the Odyssey, Homer says:

"Zeus thundered and hurled his bolt upon the ship, and she quivered from stem to stern, smitten by the bolt of Zeus, and was filled with sulphurous smoke."(1)

Again, in the Iliad: "When beneath the blast of father Zeus an oak falleth uprooted, and a dread reek of brimstone ariseth therefrom then verily courage no longer possesseth him that looketh thereon..."(2)

And: "[Zeus] thundered horribly and let loose the shimmering lightning and dashed it to the ground in front of the horses of Diomedes, and a ghastly blaze of flaming sulphur shot up, and the horses, terrified, both cringed away against the chariot."(3)

The same observation is put into a scientific prose by Pliny: "Lightning and thunder are attended with a strong smell of sulphur, and the light produced by them is of a sulphurous complexion."(4) The second part of Pliny's sentence is also correct: pioneer work on electrical discharges in modern times was produced using globes of sulphur in rotation. Sulphur is one of the best insulators and static electricity, when accumulated on it, discharges in electrical sparks towards objects brought close to it.

Electrical discharges produced without the help of sulphur are also accompanied by the smell of it. This odor was referred to by Benjamin Franklin who, comparing lightning and electricity, wrote to the Royal Society in London that both phenomena are attended by a sulphurous smell. This he mentioned among twelve other properties which suggested that lightning is an electrical discharge. No importance was attributed by him or by anyone else since to this sulphurous smell. The smell of ozone is different from the smell of vaporized sulphur or sulphurous compounds(5) and the supposition that the ancients were unable to distinguish between the two disregards the fact that besides the smell of ozone a sulphurous smell follows an electric discharge.(6)

This suggests to me that sulphur is actually produced from the air by the passage of an electrical discharge. The quantity of sulphur must be detectable in a careful laboratory experiment.

Quite possibly the detection of sulphur produced by a strong electrical discharge, by a means other than smell, has already been fulfilled. A very strong discharge of electricity passing through the air formed solid sulphur.

The bolt of electricity that fell upon the plain of the Pentapolis was of a magnitude sufficient to cause a transmutation of elements on a great scale.

It rained "brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven". The overturned plain became full of sulphurous deposits "the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt [probably potash], and burning" (7) and when later in another great upheaval the plain became covered by the Dead Sea, sulphurous springs continued to flow into the valley of the Jordan and into the Dead Sea from submerged strata and from the springs on the shores.

At the end of the eighth century and at the beginning of the seventh century before the present era, when every fifteen years Mars was approaching dangerously close to the Earth, Isaiah prophesied "the day of the Lord's vengeance," in which day "the streams [of Idumea] shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch".(8)

A curse upon man and his land was that "brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation".(9) "Upon the wicked he shall rain pitch, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest."(10)

This eschatological vision was alive with Ezekiel in the days of the Babylonian Exile. He spoke about "an overflowing rain, and great hailstones [meteorites], fire, and brimstone".(11)

These stories of sulphur raining from the sky and the fearful expectations built upon them could be taken as fictions of an imaginative mind were not the smell of sulphur an indication of its presence in the air following the passage of a discharge, and were not also the presence of sulphur deposits around the Dead Sea, thrust in deep below the ocean level, a substantiation of the story of the cataclysm.

Is the atomic source of sulphur generated by a discharge in oxygen, or does the nitrogen of the air participate also in the building of sulphur?

It seems more probable that two atoms of oxygen are smashed into one atom of sulphur. If the atomic weight of sulphur obtained by electrical discharge will be found to be over 32 (for that of sulphur is 32.06) it might be due to the presence of some atoms of oxygen of the atomic weight 17. This heavy oxygen is the product of a nitrogen atom transmuted by the bombardment of alpha particles.(12) We must reckon with the possibility that a proton from broken atoms of oxygen or ozone or nitrogen enters the new combination, or that electrons which cause the perturbation are able by themselves to change the atomic weight of the elements.

In the late 1940's I asked Dr. A. V. Grosse whether it would be possible to create, by a strong discharge, an atom of sulphur from two atoms of oxygen. His answer was that, as soon as there would be developed cyclotrons capable of releasing two billion electron volts of energy, sulphur could be made from oxygen.

1. The Odyssey, XII.
2. The Iliad, XIV.
3. Ibid., VIII. 133-136, tr. by R. Lattimore (Chicago, 1951).
4. Natural History 35.50, tr. by Bostock and Riley. 51
5. [Elemental sulphur is odorless.]
6. W. J. Humphreys, Ways of the Weather (London, 1942), p. 243.
7. Deuteronomy 29:23.
8. Isaiah 34:9.
9. Job 18:15.
10. Psalm 11:6.
11. Ezekiel 38:22.
12. Rutherford: N14 + He4 = O17 + proton1

* * * * *

EDITORIAL POSTSCRIPT: It often seems that Velikovsky's intuition is far more penetrating than decades of pragmatic research by other workers. At the time of his outline of "Sodom and Gomorrah" during the 1940s much was known about radionuclides and their preparation, but far more was unknown. Thus, Velikovsky's conjecture that two nuclei of oxygen can be fused into one atom of sulfur by an interplanetary thunderbolt does indeed appear to be quite an intellectual leap. However, it is such insights that could well afford some clue to the structure of an enormous interplanetary electrical discharge, as well as a characterization of nuclear events which might be engendered by this phenomenon.

Early experiments with man-made lightning have turned the Van de Graaff megavolt generator into an accelerator by directing the electrical discharge through an air-evacuated tube. The accelerated ions were smashed into target atoms, and physicists would then have sorted through the debris to observe what havoc had been wrought. More recently such primitive brute-force approaches have been replaced by more sophisticated sledge hammers, as with the heavy-ion accelerators at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and elsewhere. Notwithstanding, to put nuclear history into perspective, the early experimenters had taken this Schliemann-like approach primarily to gain knowledge and experience in a burgeoning new field of physics where almost everything was unknown. Today, attempts at fusion by heavy-ion or colliding-beam accelerators have yielded but a handful of desired products with heavier nuclei.

Although the power available today for experiments of this kind are measured in tens to hundreds of megawatts, future performance in the bevawatt region (billons of watts) is foreseen. While this would approach the power of some large terrestrial lightning bolts, it is still orders of magnitude less than what might be expected with even a small interplanetary discharge. In such a discharge, there is little doubt that considerable nuclear fusion would also take place. Nevertheless, ordinary thunderstorms which exhibit numerous lightning strokes are not known to create radioactive hotspots, principally because the traverse through the atmosphere slows the bolt sufficiently so that the most noticeable effects are ionization and chemical recombination of atmospheric gases. Such ions which are generated cannot be accelerated through the air-mass with sufficient velocity to effect nuclear transformations and create radioisotopes.

With respect to terrestrial lightning, Pliny observed in the first century A.D.: "Lightning and thunder are attended with a strong smell of sulfur, and the light produced by them is of a sulfurous complexion." This statement in his Natural History, which was noted by Velikovsky, is extraordinary and reraises the question whether or not evolutionary processes have been subliminally at work to where contemporary mankind can discriminate subtleties of color and odor beyond the capacities of Pliny and his own contemporaries. It is well-known that a form of lead-poisoning was endemic in Roman society, due to the use of lead pipes and vessels, and which contributed to a loss of the sense of taste, exemplifled by the excessive use of salt as a seasoning in culinary recipes. It might be conjectured that additional effects would limit the sensory discrimination of odors and colors as well.

A lightning stroke through the atmosphere ionizes the air-path, and the recombination of nitrogen and oxygen into nitrogen oxides would give rise to an acrid odor which a contemporary nose would not associate with that of sulfur. A chemically educated olfactory sense can readily discern differences between odoriferous gaseous compounds of nitrogen and sulphur.

The discharge of lightning through the atmosphere can appear to have a blue or purplish color, especially if the main stroke has been occluded by clouds. This main stroke may momentarily exceed 30,000C, with a primary excitation of the hydrogen atoms derived from water vapor and emitting in the red part of the spectrum, although the brilliance precludes any detection by the eye as anything other than white, or a bluish-white. The blue or purple color viewed by an observer when the main discharge is obscured by clouds is due to the principal excitation of the four wavelengths of nitrogen, which are emitted in the blue portion of the spectrum. A similar blue color is evident when sulfur is quietly burning in air, which makes Pliny's qualitative observation understandable.

On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin corroborated Pliny's commentary from his own observations. Franklin began his investigations in electricity in 1746, probably initiated by the invention earlier that same year of the Leyden jar, a device which could store an electrostatic charge. By late 1749 his experiments led him to correspond his findings to the Royal Society, delineating the twelve properties of the "electrical fluid" he had studied: The twelfth property was a "sulphureous smell". (Franklin was convinced that electricity and lightning were one and the same but had to wait until the summer of 1752 when he flew the famous kite experiment to prove his theory.)

However, unless an electrical or lightning discharge strikes a target containing a trace amount of vaporizable sulfur compounds, no real sulfurous odor will be detected other than ozone or nitrogen oxides. This, in a minor way, makes Velikovsky's failure to amend his speculative notes appear to be too great an ellipsis for the argumentative leap to the fusion of oxygen into sulfur by an interplanetary bolt. However, in no way does this detract from his major thesis that such a Jovian thunderbolt on the plain of the five cities could create "a transmutation of elements on a great scale".

Moreover, lightning discharges are a common occurrence during volcanic eruptions, and such displays undoubtedly happened on a grand scale when the Dead Sea area opened up to expose the underlying magma. The Great Rift Valley extends from central Africa through the Sinai to its northern reaches at the Dead Sea, and the near passage of the Earth to Jupiter could well have opened this tectonic chasm and afforded an ideally unique electrical path for an electrostatic discharge from the Jovian planet. Gases in motion, with or without particulate matter, and especially when superheated, can accumulate an electrostatic charge. Such an atmospheric phenomenon here on Earth pales in comparison to the known events which occur in the turbulent atmosphere of Jupiter, as detected by the Voyager spacecraft, and also shown in the even more violent turbulence of the planet Saturn. And, it is on these gas giants that one might anticipate the transmutation of elements in their upper atmospheres.

Pliny's mind may well have boggled to learn of our present plans to orbit a Galileo spacecraft about the Jovian planet, in as much as our own imaginings may be overwhelmed by the thought of Earth's close proximity to Jupiter within historical times. And yet, given an ionizable, conductive path between the two planets, the discharge of an electrostatic plasmoid from Jupiter would have created an interplanetary vortex that could have carried considerable atmospheric debris to our own Earth, thereby giving the impression of a rain of fire and brimstone from heaven.

Both Jupiter and Saturn are not known to have appreciable sulfur compounds in their atmospheres, except as hydrosulfides and other polymeric forms. Nevertheless, in terms of mere size differences, what would be considered miniscule in the atmosphere of Jupiter would be an inundation in the atmosphere of Earth if even a minute quantity of these constituents crossed the interplanetary void to our world. Of these substances which comprise the atmosphere of Jupiter there are considerable quantities of highly inflammable hydrogen, far lesser quantities of inflammable organics as methane (CH4) and acetylene (C2H2), along with flammable inorganics as hydrogen cyanide (HCN), cyanogen (C2N2), ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), phosphine (PH3), and silane (SiH4).

That such materials can be carried from one world to another or exposed and generated in situ is exemplified by the highly active sulfurous volcanism observed on lo, the nearest Galilean satellite to Jupiter. Io has been considered to be inductively heated by its oblique passage in and out of the powerful magnetic field of Jupiter, due to its close proximity to the massive giant. If the Earth itself was once such a satellite, we could expect equally dramatic events; and if such a condition prevailed within historic memory, the Earth would still be seeking a more stable equilibrium from this chaotic condition. We do not yet know if intrasystem electrical discharges are exchanged between Io and Jupiter, but from all indications these events might be thought possible if not probable.

Regarding the high-energy transmutation by fusion of oxygen into sulfur, or other light elements such as carbon and nitrogen into heavier products, the problems can be complex because of varying distributions of stable elements and radionuclides as well as peculiar isotopic distributions. Nevertheless, it might be imagined that such elements as silicon, aluminum, chlorine, and phosphorus could also be formed by interplanetary discharges.

However, we should not be misled into thinking that all the silicon, phosphorus, and sulfur that exists on the globe was so formed. Much, if not most, of our elemental distribution is a residuum of a primordial Earth; and what we have superficially excavated, mined, and quarried is really a mineral version of the Rosetta Stone waiting to be deciphered.

Frederic B. Jueneman


C. Michael Lederer, Jack M. Hollander, Isadore Perlman, Table of Isotopes (6th ed., N.Y., 1967).

R. L. Newburn, Jr. and S. Gulkis, "A Survey of the Outer Planets Jupiter Saturn, Uranus Neptune, Pluto, and their Satellites," Space Science Reviews 3 (Reidel: Dordrecht, Holland, 1973), pp. 179-271.

John M. Stillman, The Story of Early Chemistry (N.Y., 1924).

Martin A. Uman, Understanding Lightning (Bek Technical Pub.: Carnegie, Pa., 1971).

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