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a fragmentary scenario based on Velikovsky's
Collisions and Upheavals
Dr. Velikovsky manifests a strong distaste for summaries and popularizations of his books. In the past, many erroneous criticisms of his work have been based upon such popularizations, the critics never having studied his books. These books, detailed in their argument and exhaustive in their documentation, do not easily lend themselves to summarization.
Velikovsky's reconstruction of catastrophic historical events is revolutionary, requiring a great volume of supporting evidence. That evidence, amassed in Worlds in Collision and Earth in Upheaval, is not presented here. We wish only to provide a glimpse, for those who have not read the books, into the hypothesized events which form the subject of this special issue. These events must necessarily appear fanciful and insupportable apart from the scholarly, evidential context in which Velikovsky discusses them.
The following was not prepared with Velikovsky's help. The serious student and scholar should resort to a careful reading of Worlds in Collision and Earth in Upheaval—books which Velikovsky, now many years after writing them, believes still to be correct in all their essentials and most, if not all their details.
Global cataclysms fundamentally altered the face of our planet more than once in historical times. The terrestrial axis shifted. Earth fled from its established orbit. The magnetic poles reversed.
In great convulsions, the seas emptied onto continents, the planet's crust folded, and volcanos erupted into mountain chains. Lava flows up to a mile thick spilled out over vast areas of the Earth's surface. Climates changed suddenly, ice settling over lush vegetation, while green meadows and forests were transformed into deserts.
In a few awful moments, civilizations collapsed. Species were exterminated in continental sweeps of mud, rock and sea. Tidal waves crushed even the largest beasts, tossing their bones into tangled heaps in valleys and rock fissures, preserved beneath mountains of sediment. The mammoths of Siberia were instantly frozen and buried.
Surviving generations recorded these events by every means available: in myths and legends, in temples and monuments to the planetary gods, precise charts of the heavens, sacrificial rites, astrological canons, detailed records of planetary movements, and tragic lamentations amid fallen cities and destroyed institutions.
"ALL IS RUIN"
Aware of a link between the circuit of heavenly bodies and the catastrophic ruin of previous generations, the ancients ceaselessly watched the planetary movements. Their traditions recalled that when old epochs dissolved, the new "age" or "sun" was marked by different celestial paths. Astronomers and seers diligently watched for any change which might augur approaching destruction and the end of an age.
Prior to the second millennium B.C. ancient Hindu records spoke of four visible planets, excluding Venus. Babylonians, meticulous in their observations, likewise failed to notice Venus.
But some time before 1500 B.C. Jupiter, for centuries chief among the deities, shattered the serenity of the skies. A brilliant, fiery object, expelled from that planet, entered upon a long, elliptical orbit around the sun. The feared god Jupiter had given birth to the comet and proto-planet, Venus. Terrified, men watched the "bright torch of heaven" as it traversed its elongated orbit, menacing the Earth at each pass. Venus, a Chinese astronomical text recalls, spanned the heavens, rivaling the sun in brightness. "The brilliant light of Venus," records an ancient rabbinical source, "blazes from one end of the cosmos to the other."
The fears of the star-watchers were justified. As Venus arched away from its perihelion during the middle of the second millennium B.C. (ca. 1500), the Earth approached this intruder, entering first the outer reaches of its cometary tail. A rusty ferrous dust filtered down upon the globe, imparting a bloody hue to land and sea. The fine pigment chafed human skin, and men were overcome by sickness. Those who sought to drink could not. Rivers stank from the rotting carcasses of fish, and men dug desperately for water uncontaminated by the alien dust. "Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere," bewailed the Egyptian, Ipuwer. "Men shrink from tasting, human beings thirst after water ... That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin."
As recalled by the Babylonians, the blood of the celestial monster Tiamat poured out over the world.
But as the Earth's path carried it ever more deeply into the comet's tail, the rain of particles grew steadily more coarse and perilous. Soon a great hail of gravel pelted the Earth. "There was hail, and fire mingled with hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation." So recorded the author of Exodus.
Fleeing from the torrent of meteorites, men abandoned their livestock to the holocaust. Fields of grain which fed great cities perished. Cried Ipuwer, "No fruits, no herbs are found. That has perished which yesterday was seen. The land is left to its weariness like the cutting of flax." These things happened, say the Mexican Annals of Cuauhtitlan, when the sky "rained, not water, but fire and red-hot stones."
As our planet plunged still deeper into the comet's tail, hydrocarbon gases enveloped the Earth, exploding in bursts of fire in the sky. Unignited trains of petroleum poured onto the planet, sinking into the surface and floating on the seas. From Siberia to the Caucasus to the Arabian desert, great spills of naphtha burned for years, their billows of smoke lending a dark shroud for human despair.
Our planet was pursuing a near collision course with the massive comet's head.
Suddenly, caught in an invisible grip, the Earth rocked violently; its axis tilted. In a single convulsed moment, cities were laid waste, great buildings of stone levelled, and populations decimated.
"The towns are destroyed. Upper Egypt has become waste ... All is ruin ... The residence is overturned in a minute." Around the world, oceans rushed over mountains and poured into continental basins. Rivers flowed upward. Islands sank into the sea. Displaced strata crashed together, while the shifting Earth generated a global hurricane which destroyed forests and swept away the dwellings of men.
In China waters "overtopped the great heights, threatening the heavens with their floods." Decades of labor were required to drain the valleys of the mainland. Arabia was transformed into a desert by the same paroxysms which may have dropped the legendary Atlantis beneath the ocean west of Gibraltar.
With dulled senses, survivors lay in a trance for days, choking in the smoky air. The tilting axis left a portion of the world in protracted darkness, another in extended day. From the Americas to Europe to the Middle East records tell of darkness persisting for several days. On the edge of the darkness, the peoples of Iran witnessed a threefold night and a threefold day. Chinese sources speak of a holocaust during which the sun did not set for many days and the land was aflame. Peoples and nations everywhere, uprooted by disaster, wandered from their homelands.
Led by Moses, the Israelites fled the devastation which brought Egypt's Middle Kingdom to an end. As they rushed toward the Sea of Passage, the glistening comet, in form like a dragon's head, shone through the tempest of dust and smoke. The night sky glowed brightly as the comet's head and its writhing, serpentine tail exchanged gigantic electrical bolts.
The great battle between the fiery comet's head and the column of smoke—between a light-god and a leviathan serpent—was memorialized in primary myths around the Earth. Babylonians tell of Marduk striking the dragon Tiamat with bolts of fire. The Egyptians saw Isis and Seth in deadly combat. The Hindus describe Vishnu battling the "crooked serpent." Zeus, in the account of Appollodorus, struggled with the coiled viper Typhon.
The fugitive Israelites, having reached Pi-ha-Khiroth at the edge of the Red Sea, were pursued by the pharoah Taoui-Thom. The great sea lay divided before the slave people, its waters lifted by the movement of the Earth and the pull of the comet. Crossing the dry sea bottom, the Israelites escaped from Egypt.
As the comet made its closest approach to Earth, Taoui-Thom moved his armies into the sea bed. But even before the entire band of Israelites had crossed to the far side, a giant electrical bolt flew between the two planets. Instantly the waters collapsed. The pharoah, his soldiers and chariots, and those Israelites who still remained between the divided waters were cast furiously into the air and consumed in a seething whirlpool.
The battle in the sky raged for weeks. A column of smoke by day, a pillar of fire by night, Venus meted destruction to nations large and small. To the Israelites, it was an instrument of national salvation.
Through a series of close approaches, the comet's tail, a dreadful shadow of death, cinctured the Earth, wreathing the planet in a thick, gloomy haze that lasted for many years. And so, in darkness, a historical age ended.
Possibly the human race would have become extinct, but for a mysterious, life-giving substance precipitated in the heavy atmosphere—the nourishing "manna" and "ambrosia" described in the ancient records of all peoples. It fell with the morning dew, a sweet, yellowish hoar frost. It was edible. The ambrosial carbohydrates, possibly derived from Venus' hydrocarbons through bacterial action, filled the atmosphere with a sweet fragrance. Streams flowed with "milk and honey." When heated, this "bread of heaven" dissolved, but when cooled, it precipitated into grains which could be preserved for long periods or ground between stones. Its presence allowed man and beast to survive.
In the new age the sun rose in the east, where formerly it set. The quarters of the world were displaced. Seasons no longer came in their proper times. "The winter is come as summer, the months are reversed, and the hours are disordered," reads an Egyptian papyrus. The Chinese Emperor Yahou sent scholars throughout the land to locate north, east, west, and south and draw up a new calendar. Numerous records tell of the earth "turning over." An Egyptian inscription from before the tumult says that the sun "riseth in the west."
While men attempted to determine the times and seasons, Venus continued on its threatening course around the sun. Under Joshua, the Israelites had entered the Promised Land, and again Venus drew near. It was while the Canaanites fled from before the hand of Joshua in the valley of Beth-horon—some 50 years after the Exodus—that the daughter of Jupiter unleashed her fury a second time. "The Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died." The terrestrial axis tilted. Once more the Earth quaked fiercely. Cities burned and fell to the ground. Above Beth-horon the sun stood still for hours. On the other side of the Earth chroniclers recorded a prolonged night, lit only by the burning landscape. This occurred, Mexican records report, about 50 years after an earlier destruction.
As in its first encounter with the young comet, the Earth's surface was torn with great rifts and clefts, and hurricanes scoured the land. Strata pressed against strata, rising thunderously into mountains or engulfing cities. But the Earth and some of its inhabitants survived.
Anticipating renewed devastation following another 50-year period, nations bowed down before the great fire goddess. With bloody orgies and incantations they enjoined the dreaded queen of the planets to remain far removed from the human abode. "How long wilt thou tarry, O lady of heaven and earth?" inquired the Babylonians. "We sacrifice unto Tistrya," declared a priest in Iran, "the bright and glorious star, whose rising is watched by the chiefs of deep understanding."
In both hemispheres men fixed their gaze anxiously on the comet as, for centuries, it continued its circuit, crossing the orbits of both Earth and Mars. Before the middle of the eighth century B.C., astrologers observed dramatic irregularities in its wanderings. Viewed from Babylonia, Venus rose, disappeared in the west for over nine months, then reappeared in the east. Dipping below the eastern horizon, it was not seen again for over two months, until it shone in the west. The following year Venus vanished in the west for eleven days before reappearing in the east.
But this time it was Mars, not Earth, that endured a cosmic jolt. Passing by the smaller orb, Venus pulled Mars off its orbit, sending it on a path that endangered the Earth. A new agent of destruction was born in the unstable solar system.
This occurred in the days of Uzziah, King of Jerusalem. (Lucian, the Bamboo Books of China, the Hindu Surya-Siddhanta, the Aztec Huitzilopochtli epos, the Indo-Iranian Bundahis, etc., describe the reordering of Mars' and Venus' orbits.) Aware of the baleful meaning of irregular celestial motions, the prophet Amos, echoed by other observers of the sky, warned of new cosmic upheavals. Events soon vindicated the pessimistic seers.
As Mars drew near, the Earth reeled on its hinges. West of Jerusalem, half a mountain split off and fell eastward; flaming seraphim leaped skyward. Men were tossed into streets filled with debris and mutilated bodies. Buildings crumbled and the Earth opened up.
These cataclysms were associated with the founding of Rome (placed by Fabius Pictor at 747 B.C.) and with the death of Rome's legendary founder, Romulus. "Both the poles shook," Ovid relates, "and Atlas shifted the burden of the sky ... The sun vanished and rising clouds obscured the heaven.. ." Mars, the lord of war, became the national god of Rome.
Much smaller than Earth, Mars could not equal Venus in destructive power. But again the Earth altered its course around the sun. The old calendar, with 360-day years and 30-day months, became outdated. Emperors and kings directed their astrologers to develop a new calendar.
BATTLE OF THE GODS
Mars and Venus now competed for the allegiance of men. Tribes moved from their homeland, confronting new enemies while petitioning Mars or Venus for a swift victory. Cities and temples were dedicated to the two planetary gods who determined the fate of nations.
The era of conflict between Mars and Earth and between Mars and Venus continued until 687 (or possibly 686) B.C. Hebrew prophets after 747 B.C. cried apocalyptically of upheavals yet to come. Reminding the Israelites of their passage out of Egypt, they declared that once more the whole Earth would quake, the moon turn to blood, the sun darken and the Earth be consumed in blood, fire and pillars of smoke.
The catastrophe, as Mars hurtled past the Earth, came in the year 721 B.C., on the day Jerusalem's King Ahaz was buried. Under the influence of Mars' passage, the Earth's axis tilted and the poles shifted. Earth's orbit swung wider, lengthening the year.
Israelites observed the sun hastening by several hours to a premature setting. Thereafter, the solar disc made its way across the sky 10 degrees farther to the south.
Seneca records that on the Argive plain in Greece the early sunset came amid great upheaval. The tyrant Thyestes beckoned the entire universe to dissolve. The Great Bear dipped below the horizon. In the days which followed, states Seneca, "The Zodiac, which, making passage through the sacred stars, crosses the zones obliquely, guide and sign-bearer for the slow-moving years, falling itself, shall see the fallen constellations."
Once a peaceful, barely noticed planet, but now the "king of battle," Mars was still not finished with his work of destruction. In 687 B.C. a powerful Assyrian army led by Sennacherib marched toward Judah. On the evening of March 23, the first night of the Hebrew Passover, when Sennacherib and his army camped close to Jerusalem, Mars made a last, fateful approach to the Earth. A great thunderbolt—a "blast from heaven"—charred the soldiers' bodies, leaving their garments intact. The dead numbered 185,000. Assurbanipal, Sennacherib's grandson, later recalled "the perfect warrior" Mars, "the lord of the storm, who brings defeat."
The same night of March 23, 687 B.C., in China, the Bamboo Books reveal that a disturbance of the planets caused them to go "out of their courses. In the night, stars fell like rain. The Earth shook." Romans would celebrate the occasion: "The most important role in the (Roman) cult of Mars appears to be played by the festival of Tubilustrium on the twenty-third day of March."
The sun retreated by several hours. In certain longitudes the solar disc, which had just risen, returned below the horizon. In others, the setting sun retraced its course, rising in the sky. The Hebrews witnessed the prolonged night of Sennacherib's destruction.
The sun's retreat, due to a 10 degree tilt of the earth's axis, corrected the axis shift of 721 B.C. "So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down," reads Isaiah 38.8.
From one continent to another men, oppressed with terror, watched Mars battle Venus in the sky, speed fiercely toward the Earth bringing blasts of fire, retreat and engage Venus once more. Perhaps the most startling literary account of this theomachy, or battle of gods, is contained in Homer's Iliad (Velikovsky's revised chronology places Homer later than 747 B.C.) As the Greeks besieged Troy, Athena (Venus) "would utter her loud cry. And over against her spouted Ares (Mars), dread as a dark whirlwind ... All the roots of many-founted Ida were shaken, and all her peaks." The river "rushed with surging flood" and "The fair streams seethed and boiled."
Venus and Mars both emerged from the battle defeated. Mars was "thrown out of the ring"; and Venus, once having ranged high to the zenith, now became the morning and evening star, never retreating more than 48° from the sun. Isaiah, who had witnessed the planet's destructive power, sang of its disgrace: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God."
PENSEE Journal I