The following comes from an exchange on talk.origins between myself (Phil "Pib" Burns) and Ev Cochrane. Mr. Cochrane, an editor of Aeon, is a leading proponent of the Saturnist hypothesis. The Saturnists believe Saturn was once Earth's primary (during the Holocene) and that Venus, Mars, and Jupiter also orbited Saturn. Mythology then reflects various stages in the disruption of this Saturnian system. I do not agree with the Saturnist viewpoint. If you are interested in finding out more about it, please see the Kronia or Aeon sites.
In message Thu, 13 Oct 94 21:17:04 -0500, Everett Cochrane writes: > "It is a real privlege to have this opportunity to contribute to the > ongoing debate over the validity of the respective theories of > Velikovsky and Clube & Napier. Like many readers of Review, no doubt, > my interest in this area was originally inspired by Worlds in Collision. > During the course of the past dozen years I have pursued extensive > researches in an attempt to evaluate Velikovsky's claims, particularly > with regard to ancient mythology, some of which have yielded positive > results, some negative. Working in close collaboration with David > Talbott, I have unearthed a wealth of evidence supporting Velikovsky's > claims of great cataclysms involving the planets Venus, Mars and > Saturn (1). Although much of this research has yet to be published, > a good deal *has* seen the light of day, and it is fair to say that > it has yet to elicit much response from fellow scholars working in > Velikovsky-related studies. This apparent apathy, needless to say, > has been a source of some surprise and not a little frustration to > both Talbott and myself. > In a previous message to Dave Talbott I suggested that one reason for this apathy may be that you have not elaborated the physical (astronomical/ geological/archaeological) evidence for the polar configuration. Until you do, the polar configuration remains just one more way of interpreting mythology -- one among many. Without solid, testable physical evidence and models supporting the polar configuration, scientists will not pay much attention. I realize this probably seems unfair to you, given your personal involvement in the development and elaboration of the polar configuration. Remember the dictum "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" tells you how scientists treat hypotheses. The polar configuration is an extraordinary hypothesis because it contradicts so much of the current understanding of the recent history of the solar system. The apparent lack of supporting physical evidence results in rejection of the claims of the polar configuration. > It is also with a great deal of dismay that I have come to witness the > relative approval accorded the recent theories of Clube and Napier > within Velikovskian circles. These two astronomers, if one may judge > from their statements in various publications [including Aeon], > would not only seek to deny their considerable debt to Velikovsky, > they would borrow much of what is most questionable about Worlds in > Collision (i.e., the historical placement of comet-induced cataclysms > in the second millennium BC) and throw out that which is more reliable > (the planetary identifications of such primary players as Inanna, > Kronos, and Heracles). > It is easy to show that Clube and Napier do not "seek to deny their considerable debt to Velikovsky." Consider this passage from "The Cosmic Serpent:" "No authors can justifiably make references to proposals of this kind without mention also of the investigations by Velikovsky. In a quite remarkable piece of historical analysis some thirty years ago, this author not only drew attention to the parallels between the events described in _Exodus_ and the Ipuwer Chronicle, but also to their implications so far as a catastrophic extra-terrestrial missile and ancient chronology were concerned." Clearly Clube and Napier recognize the worth of Velikovsky's work. They later say: "Unfortunately Velikovsky's researches have remained firmly outside the main line of historical enquiry, and his arguments involving a correction of Egyptian dates up to the end of the eighteenth dynasty, similar to the one we are proposing in this chapter, have not been given the attention by experts they deserve. The reasons for this are not hard to find. In the first place, Velikovsky followed up these quite plausible discoveries by drawing attention to further challenging parallels between the late New Kingdom kings and rulers in the _latter_ half of the first millenium BC. His later identifications contravened the usual stratigraphic sequence of events however, and archaeologists have generally found them quite unacceptable. But much worse than this, Velikovsky became seriously involved in pressing a quite impossible astronomical hypothesis to explain the catastrophic events. Although in the reaction to these ideas one can see the signs of an irrational adherence to the principle of uniformitarianism, Velikovsky himself was quite unable to conduct rational and scientific arguments in support of his case. The result has been to turn opinion firmly against all aspects of his work, sound and reasonable thought some of it is." So Clube and Napier believe that Velikovsky was completely mistaken in the physical models he proposed to explain the evidence of catastrophes he uncovered. Hence I would not expect Clube and Napier to feel they owe any debt to Velikovsky since the physical model they propose differs greatly Velikovsky's. Clube and Napier are also cognizant of the work of others who suggested astronomy was more important to understanding ancient civilizations than most scholars credited. In various works and speeches, Clube and Napier mention the work of Bellamy, Radloff, Donnelly, Whiston, and Laplace, among others. Clube and Napier see Velikovsky, as well as themselves, as members of a long line of scholars who believed in catastrophism. Clube and Napier do agree with Velikovsky that there were astronomically induced disasters in the second millenium BC. They differ with Velikovsky as to the nature and extent of the disasters in the first millenium BC. Clube and Napier also ascribe earlier (before the second millenium BC) and later (centuries AD) disasters and social trends to astronomical effects. I believe the evidence they present warrants their conclusions. > Confronted with the wealth of testimony associating Venus with > cataclysmic imagery (i.e., the traditions surrounding Inanna), Clube > and Napier would explain it all away with a mere wave of the hand, > arguing that such traditions properly refer to one early comet or > another (which one is difficult to determine since their statements > on its identity are conflicting) and were only subsequently > 'transferred' to the planet Venus (2). Here, as is frequently the > case in their writings, Clube and Napier show themselves to be > virtual novices when it comes to the ancient sources. The fact is > that Venus/Inanna is recognizable as a planet in very early sources, > being known as the Queen of Heaven since time immemorial. It was > in this latter role, of course, that the planet-goddess is said > to have participated in spectacular cataclysms shaking the very > foundations of heaven and earth. That it was the planet Venus that > was the subject of these traditions is indicated by the fact that > similar motifs occur in the Mesoamerican traditions surrounding that > planet. > Clube and Napier are astronomers. I would not expect them to be experts in archaeology or mythology. Indeed, some of what they say in those areas seems weak, even wrong. On the historical front, I cannot accept the chronological revisions Clube and Napier offer in "The Cosmic Serpent." (I reject Velikovsky's reconstructions from the "Ages in Chaos" series as well.) There may be good reasons for suggesting revisions to Egyptian chronology and thereby to chronologies derived from Egyptian chronology. "Centuries of Darkness" by James argues for such revisions. These remain highly controversial. We need sound chronologies in order to place historical texts in their proper time periods. This allows us to correlate historical evidence with climatological, geological, and archaeological evidence. Hopefully over the next few years, scholars will finally be able to sort out the chronology of the Near East. Clube and Napier's analysis of mythology is not as detailed as I would like either. Some, but not all, of the weaknesses of "The Cosmic Serpent" are redressed in later works such as "Cosmic Winter". For example, Clube and Napier almost ignore the role of precession in the development of archaic astronomy and mythology. "Hamlet's Mill" by De Santillana and Dechand shows the importance of precession. I would like to see the themes engendered by precession combined in a fruitful way with the themes originating in catastrophes. As regards the identification of Venus with cataclysmic imagery, Clube and Napier do not "explain it all away with a wave of the hand." It is still a matter of legitimate contention whether early astronomical references to Inanna, for example, refer solely to Venus, or to some other body as well. It is very difficult to disentagle references to specific astronomical objects in ancient chronicles as Bjorkman and Chadwick demonstrate. For example, Chadwick notes the term "MUL.GAL" or "great star" can refer to Jupiter, the Moon, Saturn, a meteor, or Sirius. Sometimes we can tell from context which astronomical object is being referred to -- but sometimes we cannot. It is also difficult to determine what the "morning star" is, in many ancient texts. De Santillana and Dechand in "Hamlet's Mill" talk about this problem, specifically in the context of Venus as morning star: "Jubar is generally accepted for Venus on the presupposition that 'morning star' stands every single time for Venus, which is certainly misleading: any star, constellation, or planet rising heliacally may act as morning star." Clube and Napier would add "comet" to that list. Quoting again from "The Cosmic Serpent:" "The aspect of Velikovsky's thesis that seems to have generated the most steam is his identification of the planet Venus as a gigantic comet that swept past the Earth before moving into its present orbit. Wildly improbable though this is for dynamical and many other reasons, there is no doubt that Venus did eventually assume a particularly significant place in many early astronomies. If undue reliance is placed on the mythological rather than the scientific evidence, the absurd speculations about Venus can at least be understood if not forgiven. How the confusion of blame between Typhon and Venus arose in some myths, assuming indeed it did, is obscure. We have already mentioned the great difficulty which may arise in unambiguously identifying a celestial object from Babylonian text. The problem will be greatly compounded when the translating scholar is unaware of the picture we have developed. Both objects would have the characteristics of being lost in the sunlight at intervals, and being seen as morning and evening phenomena, but there may be stronger reasons for attributing the properties of one also to the other (see page 269). The Velikovsky thesis was therefore not so much wrong as misguided." "Typhon" refers to a fragment of the giant comet which was the progenitor of the Taurid/Encke complex. Clube and Napier's thesis is that the fragmentation of this large comet over several millenia was responsible for many of the astronomical catastrophies encoded in mythology. The "page 269" reference details a suggested scenario whereby the divine names originally given to cometary bodies were later transferred to the planets. The text is long so I won't quote it. Instead I'll briefly summarize it. In pre-classical times, Halley's comet (not part of the Taurid/Encke complex, BTW) must have been a brilliant object, perhaps as much as 1000 times brighter than Sirius. There is a 4:9 commensurability between the Martian super-synodic period and that of Halley's comet. This cycle recurs on a 684 year period. The 684 year period was very important to the ancients. Clube and Napier suggest that, because of the damage which ensued from encounters with the Taurid-derived comets, the ancients assumed some early near encounters with Halley's comet might also have dire consequences. There is also a 7:17 commensurability between the 8-year Venus period used for prediction by the Babylonians and returns of Encke's comet at 3.3 years. This weak commensurability has a near 56 year period -- and the 56 year period was also of great importance to the ancients. Since passages of Encke's comet (and its brethren) did entail disastrous impact events of the Tunguska and Super-Tunguska type (according to Clube and Napier), one can also understand how the transfer from the comet to Venus might have occurred as the comet and its brethren faded. In "Cosmic Winter," Clube and Napier further address this point of the identification of Inanna with Venus, suggesting the ancients noted a duality between Venus and the giant comet: "The Babylonian Venus was therefore the planet as long ago as 1600-1700 BC. This need not be a difficulty for a purely cometary hypothesis since Inanna, 'crowned with great horns', would be a brilliant morning and evening star both in her planetary aspect as Venus and in her divine aspect as the giant comet: evidence for such duality exists in the dual naming of planets by the Babylonians." Written Mesoamerican traditions about Venus, disasters, and comets date from a period long after the major catastrophes occurred. Given this length of time, it is not surprising to find some confusion regarding the relative roles of Venus, comets, meteors, and other phenomena. Ulrich Kohler mentions that the Aztec codices _Telleriano Remensis_ and _Vaticanus A_ record five comets from the 1530s. The first has an attached text comment stating that "Venus was smoking." What the Aztecs meant by this is not known. The corresponding comet was indeed observed in the Old World in 1533, but a "smoking Venus" was not. Kohler notes that the "Venus may be smoking" idea was reported in this century by the Pipil of El Salvador. What they meant is also unknown. This is something which requires more study. > Clube and Napier fare no better as comparative mythologists. Witness > their discussion of the mythological traditions surrounding Heracles. > At one time or another the Greek her is identified with Chronos, > Phaethon, Zeus, a comet, a meteor-stream, and a host of others (3). > I thus find myself in complete agreement with Atkinson [a reviewer > of The Cosmic Serpent], who recently observed: > > 'Virtually all their mythological-historical material should be > ditched. There is a corpus of much more persuasive evidence in > Worlds in Collision.' (4) > Clube and Napier have continuously improved their historical material. There was a great improvement between "The Cosmic Serpent" and "Cosmic Winter", and another between "Cosmic Winter" and Clube's article "Hazards from Space: Comets in History and Science." As for the mythological material, Clube and Napier suggest that the disintegration of the original large comet which was the progenitor of the Taurid/Encke complex engendered a variety of mythological themes. Some of the fragments become comets; some gave rise to meteor swarms; some impacted the Earth as "thunderbolts" from the gods; and so on. This disintegration is a fundamental part of Clube and Napier's physical model. They assume that, at different time periods -- over thousands of years -- the disintegrating comet and its "children" took on different names reflecting the status of the disintegration. They conclude these observations led to the creation of myths about the generational wars of the gods, the birth of gods from other gods, the conflict between gods/heros and serpents, among others. Is it possible to create a better and more comprehensive scheme for deriving mythological themes from the disintegration events? I believe it is. Likewise, I believe that careful examination of the mythological themes can lead to a better understanding of the order, nature, and timing of the disintegration events. > In short, it is my opinion that an attempted synthesis between the > ideas of Velikovsky and Clube and Napier would be a grave mistake if > not a travesty altogether. To my way of thinking, the cometary > thesis of Clube & Napier represents a misappropriated, watered-down > version of Velikovsky's and certainly does not constitute an > advance in scholarship--rather the opposite. This is not to deny > that there are a host of unresolved problems with Velikovsky's > scenario and this, perhaps, is the reason why my comrades in > Britain might be tempted to entertain the possibility of such a > 'star-crossed' marriage in the first place. > I agree that trying to meld Velikovsky's physical models with that of Clube and Napier is a mistake since the physical models are different. and Velikovsky's physical model cannot be supported by physical evidence anyway. Clube and Napier's model, on the other hand, CAN be supported by physical evidence. Clube and Napier's model involves the disintegration of a giant comet in earth-crossing orbit. This comet was the progenitor of the Taurid/Encke complex. This idea has received considerable theoretical and observational support in the past decade. See the review article by Asher et al for details. For example, the identification of giant cometary objects such as Chiron in the outer solar system lend credence to Clube and Napier's model. Chiron is a particularly interesting object since there is a good chance that perturbation by Saturn will inject Chiron into the inner solar system within the next hundred thousand years. As a result, we may once again experience the types of catastrophes Clube and Napier suggest the Earth has repeatedly undergone during the Holocene. > Thus it can be demonstrated that the mythical careers of Venus and > Mars were inextricably linked with each other (as Velikovsky > intuitively surmised) as well as with the planet Saturn (a point > overlooked by Velikovsky, and one with grave consequences for his > historical reconstruction). The role of Venus as great mother > goddess and Queen of Heaven, for example, is not fully understandable > apart from that planet's relationship to Saturn, which signified > the King of the Gods and, as such, her beloved consort (7). The > planet Mars, in turn, is represented as their son in literally > hundreds of mythical traditions, his principal role being that of > a great warrior defending the celestial kingdom (8). The mythical > activities of the respective planet-gods--including their > cataclysmic overtones--are likewise inextricably linked. Mars' > combat with the celestial dragon, for example, forms a primary > motif in the Creation myths of numerous ancient peoples and is > clearly related to the spectacular events surrounding the formation > of Saturn's celestial kingdom. Hence the myth of the dragon combat > cannot relate to events during the period covered by W. in C. The > time of Venus' comet-like epiphany, similarly, is intimately > associated with the myth of the 'death' of Saturn (9). > > As Talbott and I have shown, the mythology surrounding Saturn, Venus > and Mars is remarkably consistent and it is this fact, coupled with > its antiquity and complexity, which confirms its archetypal nature. > The principle that has guided the research of Talbott and myself > is very simple: namely, that the ancient traditions (mostly > mythological) are our best guide to the appearance and arrangement > of the earliest remembered Solar System, not some fancy computer's > retrocalculations based upon current understandings of astronomical > principles. > > Our methodological approach is thus in accord with that of Velikovsky > and stands in stark contrast to that of Clube and Napier, who would > interpret the ancient traditions in accordance with the narrow > parameters (some would say laws) dictated by modern astronomy. The > fundamental incompatibility of the two approaches could not be more > apparent and underscores the root of the problem: either the myths > are a reliable guide to the ancient cosmos--no matter how incongrous-- > their message--or they are not. If they are, as Talbott and I > maintain, analysis of ancient myth becomes an invaluable tool for > understanding the recent history of our Solar System and will > inevitably have profound ramifications for astronomical theory. > The science of astronomy, after all, developed from early > mythological conceptions and it is possible that the oldest 'science' > still has something to teach the young upstart. > I am sure that most scientists would strongly disagree with the statement "the ancient traditions (mostly mythological) are our best guide to the appearance and arrangement of the earlier remembered Solar System." Our best guide to the appearance of the earlier solar system is the current appearance of the solar system, followed by historical and geological evidence for changes. Mythology, by its very nature, is not necessarily a reliable guide to science. Deriving physical models from mythology instead of from physical evidence is unsound. Multiple interpretation of myths are always possible. When you dismiss the physical evidence, or reduce it to a lessor status, you can easily end up with nonsensical and unsupportable physical models. We should remember that our outlook on the cosmos is very different from those of the ancients. We can easily be misled if we look at mythological events as "real" events in our modern sense because we "see" a different sky than the ancients -- even if no changes have occurred at all. This is because the ancients interpreted celestial events in differently than we do. Hadingham expresses this eloquently: "The one characteristic shared by all the skywatching peoples discussed in this book was a unifying vision that connected their astronomical skills to so many other aspects of their lives. The order perceived in the heavens provided a model that gave form and meaning to the actions of people on earth. Whether their needs and decisions revolved around the right time to plant corn or the proper place to raise a cairn or pyramid to honor a dead lord, the cosmic order provided them with guidance and justification. The conscious use of the sky to create and reinforce social values was quite different from the attitude of the astronomer today. Of course, we know that the path of modern scientific inquiry is influenced by economic and political forces; indeed, if we look beneath the proverbial objectivity of the scientist we might find his calculations serving such ends as guiding missiles and spy satellites. However, it is the essential and explicit concern of the ancient astronomers with human affairs, as well as with beliefs about the natural order, that distinguishes their thinking from ours today. This is not to suggest they were any less capable of logical reasoning than a modern researcher, or less interested in predicting events. But the motivation of their skywatching skills corresponded to different needs and anxieties from those of our technological world." These ideas are further elaborated at length in "Conversing with the Planets" by Anthony Aveni from a non-catastrophist viewpoint. Aveni uses examples that bear directly on topics we have been discussing, including the role of Saturn as the "night sun" and the interpretation of the Venus observations by the Maya and Babylonians. Owen Gingerich provides a good review of the role of archaeoastronomy in the history of astronomy. Harald Reiche discusses the relationship between ancient astronomy and mythology, particularly in the creation of etiological myths. The difference in approach between Velikovsky (and yourself, if I understand you correctly) and Clube and Napier is this: Velikovsky looked at the mythology, found evidence for catastrophes in the myths, and devised an untenable physical model to explain the catastrophes. Clube and Napier looked at the evidence for, and physical model of, a large comet disintegrating in near-Earth environs. They deduced the likelihood of catastrophic events as a result of this evidence. They then tried to see if mythology, history, climatology, and archaeology might refer to such events. This is how we would expect from astronomers like Clube and Napier to proceed. THESE ARE VERY DIFFERENT APPROACHES. I cannot emphasize this enough. I would personally agree with Clube and Napier that looking at the physical evidence, and using to interpret the mythological evidence, is the proper approach. Giving priority to physical evidence does not preclude us from considering the need for reviewing and revising current astronomical thinking in the light of ancient mythological and historical evidence. Clube and Napier call for such a review at the end of the main body of "The Cosmic Serpent:" "It is appropriate that we end as we began, on a note of uncertainty, for the realization that mythology and early astrology are telling us about past comets means there is a great deal more research still to be done. Such research will require the skills of many disciplines and hopefully it will be encouraged by the new perspectives that have now been opened up." This is precisely what has been happening over the last fifteen years as a result of Clube and Napier's work. There is one further very important difference between Velikovsky's work and that of Clube and Napier. As best I can remember, Velikovsky felt that no significant catastrophes occurred aftered the "Mars" events of the seventh century BC. Clube and Napier, on the other hand, see no reason why clusters of impact events, or enhanced meteoric/bollide activity, should not have continued to occur. Bailey et al and Clube suggest that such events have in fact occurred right up to the present. Clube associates the end of the Roman empire and the rise of Islam (around 500/600 AD) with an intensification of the Taurid/Encke meteor flux. He also associates such intensifications with the emergence of millenarianism, Protestantism, the English Revolution, the American War of Independence and the French Revolution, as well as the recent years of European revolutions. The impact of the Tunguska object early in this century was only the latest in a millenia old series of strikes from objects contained in the disintegrating Taurid/Encke complex. Very likely it was not the last. This should give all of us pause. If Clube and Napier are right, the "sky gods" and "demons" are still there -- still able to rain death and destruction down upon us from above. Our one consolation as we contemplate this chilling thought is that humanity has survived thousands of years of bombardment. Let's hope we continue to be so lucky! References ==========  Asher, D. J., S. V. M. Clube, W. M. Napier, and D. I. Steel. "Coherent Catastrophism." Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 38 (1994), pp. 1-27.  Aveni, Anthony F. _Conversing with the Planets_. Times Books, New York, 1992.  Bailey, M. E., S. V. M. Clube, and W. M. Napier. _The Origin of Comets_. Pergamon Press, 1990.  Bjorkman, J. K. "Meteors and Meteorites in the ancient Near East." Meteoritics, 8 (1973), pp. 91-132.  Chadwick, Robert. "Comets and meteors in the last Assyrian Empire." In _World Archaeoastronomy_, Anthony F. Aveni, editor. Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Clube, Victor and Bill Napier. _The Cosmic Serpent_. Universe Books, New York, New York, 1982.  Clube, Victor and Bill Napier. _Cosmic Winter_. Universe Books, New York, New York, 1990.  Clube, S. V. M. "Hazards from Space: Comets in History and Science." In _The Mass-Extinction Debates: How Science Works in a Crisis_, William Glen, editor. Stanford, 1994.  Gingerich, Owen. "Reflections on the role of archaeoastronomy in the history of astronomy." In _World Archaeoastronomy_, A. F. Aveni, editor. Cambridge University Press, 1989.  James, Peter. _Centuries of Darkness_. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1993.  Hadingham, Evan. _Early Man and the Cosmos_ University of Oklahoma Press, 1984.  Kohler, Ulrich. "Comets and falling stars in the perception of Mesoamerican Indians." In _World Archaeoastronomy_, A. F. Aveni, editor. Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Reiche, Harald A. T. "The language of archaic astronomy: A clue to the Atlantis myth?" In _Astronomy of the Ancients_, Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag, editors. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA., 1980.  Santilliana, Giorgio de and H. von Dechend. _Hamlet's Mill_. Macmillan, London, 1969.
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.