How much do Clube and Napier owe Velikovsky?

The following comes from an exchange on 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.

The context of my note here was a discussion on whether Clube and Napier should have given greater recognition to Velikovsky than they did for their "giant comet" model of coherent catastrophism. I point out that

In message Mon, 2 Jan 95 23:45:14 -0500,
  Everett Cochrane writes:

> I am also aware of other instances where authors (some with
> PHD's in their respective
> fields) were required to delete all references to Velikovsky in
> order to be published.
> Others, like Peter James--a leading historian whose book
> Centuries of Darkness: A
> challenge to the conventional chronology of Old World
> Archaeology (1993) takes its
> inspiration from Velikovsky's writings--must downplay their
> debt to Velikovsky in order
> to be taken seriously.  James' book represents a major
> contribution to scholarship and has
> achieved a good deal of publicity and discussion, none of which
> would have been
> possible were it known that he came to his radical thesis
> through exposure to
> Velikovsky's thesis vis a vis the Dark Ages of Greece (James
> was an editor for two pro-
> Velikovsky journals: Kronos and SIS).

This post by Mr. Cochrane reminds me that I wanted to comment a while back
on the derivative nature of Velikovsky's work.  Before I begin, I want to
emphasize that I am a general admirer of Velikovsky's work, but I am also
aware of his weaknesses and failings.  I treat his work the same way I
treat that of any other scholar whose work I've read.

Some time ago, Mr. Cochrane posted comments of his own and those of two
reviewers (Bernard Newgrosh and D. C. Stove) castigating Clube and Napier
for not giving more credit to Velikovsky in _The Cosmic Serpent_[6].  I
maintain that Clube and Napier gave Velikovsky sufficient credit, with one
exception.  On page 220 of _The Cosmic Serpent,_ the quote from Rockenbach
uses Velikovsky's own original translation from _Worlds in Collision_[22].
Clube and Napier should have credited Velikovsky for this translation.

This oversight on Clube and Napier's part is dwarfed by the failure of
Velikovsky to give credit proper credit to his own predecessors.  Cochrane
quoted Bernard Newgrosh as saying in his review of _The Cosmic Serpent_:

   > "Of course, a book like this could not have been written without
   > repeated reference to the works of Immanuel Veliovsky,
   > especially as the other ingredients of the book include:
   > (1) evolution in the wake of catastrophic extinctions;
   > (2) mythology as the true record of man's reaction to catastrophe...;
   > (3) the Exodus event and the Flood of Noah as worldwide catastrophic
   > events which were caused by comets--within the memory of
   > man;
   > (4) a revised chronology.

How correct is this criticism of Newgrosh?  I believe it is entirely
incorrect.  Let's consider each of the four points Newgrosh raises.

   > (1) evolution in the wake of catastrophic extinctions;

This idea was not original with Velikovsky.  In addition to the well-known
works of Cuvier and other eighteenth and nineteenth century catastrophists,
see the books by Bellamy[2,3].  Bellamy discusses evolution in the wake of
global catastrophes which he -- following Hoerbiger and Fauth[10] --
ascribed to the impact of a former moon after its breakup and the later
capture of the present moon.

On the next two points:

   > (2) mythology as the true record of man's reaction to catastrophe...;
   > (3) the Exodus event and the Flood of Noah as worldwide catastrophic
   > events which were caused by comets--within the memory of
   > man;

neither of these ideas was original with Velikovsky.  Bellamy[2,3],
Braghine[4], Carli[5], Donnelly[8], Hoerbiger and Fauth[10], Radlof[17],
Whiston[25], and Zschaetzsch[27] had expressed similar views prior to

Velikovsky mentions Whiston[25] in a footnote to _Worlds in Collision_.  He
also references Donnelly[8] and Bellamy[3] in footnotes.  You would never
know from these meager citations that these authors wrote extensively on
the effect of prehistoric and historic catastrophes on humankind.  Both
marshalled mythological evidence in support of their respective contentions
that cometary impacts or wandering planets/moons caused these catastrophes.

Bauer[1] reports the surprise, for both supporters and critics alike, at
Velikovsky's failure to credit Donnelly, at least, more thoroughly.
Velikovsky appears to have "borrowed" ideas and even phraseology wholesale
from Donnelly (see Bauer[1], pages 218-223).

Velikovsky's ideas also closely mirror those of Radlof[17], whom Velikovsky
does not mention.  Radlof suggested that a planet between Mars and Jupiter
exploded after being struck by a comet.  One fragment collided with the
Earth, giving rise to the legends of Phaeton, deluges, and combat myths
with cosmic monsters like Typhon.  Another fragment, taking on a cometary
orbit and appearance, encountered the planet Mars and later settled down
into its current orbit as the planet Venus.  Radlof, a philogist, tried to
support his ideas with mythological evidence -- including some of the very
same material Velikovsky used.

On a personal note,  I had read Donnelly and Bellamy (and some of the other
authors I mentioned above) before discovering Velikovsky.  I too found the
similarities striking.  Chicago author Mel Waskin echoed these feelings in
the introduction to his book _Mrs. O'Leary's Comet_[24].  Waskin expands on
Donnelly's idea that the Great Chicago Fire (and the simultaneous
conflagrations in Wisconsin and Michigan) resulted from the impact of
fragments from Biela's comet.  Waskin says:

     "In 1970, in the midst of the Velikovsky furor, Donnelly's book
      was reprinted.  I came across it on a bookstore remainder table
      in 1982 and was struck by the similarity between Donnelly's ideas,
      and those of Velikovsky, whom I admire."

It is also surprising that Velikovsky does not mention Hoerbiger and
Fauth[10].  Given Velikovsky's background, I would expect him to have been
familiar with Hoerbiger's thesis since the "Ice Cosmology" was all the rage
in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.  And in fact, in a letter to the New
York Times (June 25, 1950), Velikovsky wrote that he was aware of
Hoerbiger, but did not feel he owed Hoerbiger any credit for his ideas.
Perhaps the association of Hoerbiger's "Ice Cosmology" with the Nazi Party
led Velikovsky to avoid any direct mention of Hoerbiger.  Instead,
Velikovsky quoted only from Bellamy's principal English-language
popularizer, Hans Bellamy.  This might also explain Velikovsky's failure to
cite Alexander Braghine[4] who invoked comets as destructive agents and
marshalled mythological evidence for past catastrophes.  Braghine was
something of an "Aryan supremicist," as was Karl George Zschaetzsch[27],
another cometary castastrophist, who wanted to demonstrate "Aryan"
superiority by providing "Aryans" with an Atlantean pedigree.

Was Velikovsky really unaware of these other early catastrophists?  Did he
believe some of the ideas he came up with were his own original thinking,
when they might have been the dimly remembered echoes of ideas he had heard
years before in Europe?  Sometimes I come up with an idea that I believe is
original with me, only to discover later that I had read it years before in
a book.  Velikovsky[21] himself disclaimed any great credit to his
predecessors (quoted from Bauer[], pages 221-222):

   "There are three more authors [Whiston, Cuvier, Donnelly] whom I
    feel obliged to mention, although I did not find in them more than
    one or another quotation which I could trace and re-employ, since
    my theory was ready when I came across their books, and it went
    far beyond the ideas of these authors."

I suppose I could be catty and ask, if Velikovsky did not feel he had to
credit Whiston and Donnelly with more than a brief mention at best, why
should Clube and Napier have felt obliged to mention Velikovsky?  After
all, they completely reject all of Velikovsky's proposed physical
mechanisms.  Their "giant comet" model is very different from Velikovsky's
Radlof-like wandering Venus.  They interpret mythological themes
differently from Velikovsky.  In fact, their approach to mythology is the
reverse of Velikovsky's.  Velikovsky built a physical model using history
and mythology as the basis.  Clube and Napier built a physical model and
then looked to history and mythology as partial support.  Clube and Napier
also proposed a different chronological reconstruction than Velikovsky's.
(In their later works, such as _Cosmic Winter_[7], it appears that Clube
and Napier no longer subscribe to the revised historical model they
proposed in the _Cosmic Serpent_.) Clube and Napier have also stated that
they were familiar with Bellamy[3], but not with Velikovsky, when they
devised the early versions of their giant comet model.  Nevertheless, in
the proper academic tradition, Clube and Napier credited Velikovsky as a
precursor even though their physical model owes nothing to him.  Would that
Velikovsky had done so!

On the last point raised by Newgrosh, and again by Cochrane in the message
to which I am responding:

   > (4) a revised chronology.

this idea too was not original with Velikovsky.

Given the derivative nature of much of the rest of Velikovsky's work, it
should come as no surprise that he was not the first to suggest that
ancient chronologies needed revision.  Predictably, Velikovsky did not give
any credit to his predecessors in this area either.

Isaac Newton[16] suggested that the chronology of the Egyptian New Kingdom
should be lowered by four hundred years.  He also suggested that many of
Manetho's late dynasties did not rule in sequence but instead overlapped.

In the late 1800s, the debate continued to rage between Classicists and
Egyptologists concerning the proper dating of the Egyptian New Kingdom.
The "long chronology" supported by Sir Flinders Petrie and Eduard
Meyer[15], among others, eventually won out.  In this scheme, the Egyptian
New Kingdom, beginning with the Eighteenth Dynasty, started ruling around
1580 B.C.  This remained the standard chronology under just recently.  (The
recent dating of the explosion of Thera to around 1620 B.C. has caused some
scholars to move the start of the eighteenth dynasty back to around 1780

The classicist Cecil Torr[18] argued against Meyer's chronology.  Torr
insisted that the New Kingdom dates had to be reduced in order to avoid
introducing spurious "Dark Ages" into the history of Greece and the Middle
East.  Torr dated the start of the New Kingdom to 1271 B.C.

The Egyptologist Jens Lieblein[13,14] suggested that the New Kingdom dates
needed reduction by at least two hundred years.  Lieblein also blamed the
long chronology for needlessly introducing a dark age into the history of
the Hittites.

I find it difficult to believe that Velikovsky could have overlooked Torr
and Lieblein.  In fact, Velikovsky quotes from Lieblein in "Ages in Chaos,"
so he must have been familiar with Lieblein's work.  Yet I could find no
placed that Velikovsky credited Lieblein or Torr with the suggestion that
the chronology of the Egyptian New Kingdom (and therefore the chronology of
the Near East in general) needed to be lowered.

I believe Velikovsky was unique in combining the two themes of cosmic
catastrophe in prehistoric and historic times, giving rise to a variety of
myths and legends, with a revision of the chronology in the second and
first millenia B.C.

What are we to make of all this?  It it my belief that Velikovsky was very
seriously remiss in not giving more credit to preceding writers such as
those I mentioned above.  I also believe that Newgrosh, Stove, and Cochrane
have failed to appreciate the enormous _uncredited_ debt Velikovsky owed to
these predecessors.

To Mr. Cochrane's comment:

> I am also aware of other instances where authors (some with
> PHD's in their respective
> fields) were required to delete all references to Velikovsky in
> order to be published.

I respond by saying that mentioning Velikovsky did not prevent Bauer[1],
Galanopoulos[9], Kitchen[12], Vitaliano[23], and others from being
published.  For that matter, James[11] mentions Velikovsky.  However,
Bauer[1] does provide examples of some authors being badgered about
publishing work that could be seen as supporting Velikovsky.  Such
deplorable conduct demonstrates that even the best scholars can be petty.
We all need to be aware of, and guard against, such tendencies in ourselves.

I believe the main contribution of Velikovsky is that he makes us question
some of the fundamental principles on which we base our current
understanding of science and history.  It is valuable for a scholar to be
flexible and to keep an open mind, always questioning whether some
"accepted dogma" might not be wrong.  This is probably why Harry Hess asked
Velikovsky to lecture to his students.  Hess, a prominent geologist of the
50s and 60s, did not subscribe to Velikovsky's ideas, but he was very
fair-minded.  See Bauer[1] and Wood[26] for details on Hess's interactions
with Velikovsky.

We would do well to emulate the behavior of Hess (and Clube and Napier) and
recognize what was valuable in Velikovsky's work, and his ability to fire
our imaginations, while also recognizing the many mistakes he made.


[1]   Bauer, Henry H.  _Beyond Velikovsky_.
      University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1984.

[2]   Bellamy, Hans Schindler.  _A Life History of the Earth_.
      Faber and Faber, London, 1951.

[3]   Bellamy, Hans Schindler.  _Moons, Myths, and Man_.
      Faber and Faber, London, 1936.

[4]   Braghine, Alexander.  _The Shadow of Atlantis_.
      Dutton, New York, 1940.

[5]   Carli, Comte Giovanni Rinaldo. _Lettres Americaines_.
      Buisson, Paris: 1788.

[6]   Clube, Victor and Bill Napier.  _The Cosmic Serpent_.
      Universe Books, New York, 1982.

[7]   Clube, Victor and Bill Napier.  _Cosmic Winter_.
      Universe Books, New York, 1990.

[8]   Donnelly, Ignatius.  _Ragnarok:  The Age of Fire and Gravel_.
      D. Appleton, New York, 1883.

[9]   Galanopoulos, Angelos Georgiou, and Edward Bacon.
      _Atlantis; the truth behind the legend_.
      Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1969.

[10]  Hoerbiger, Hans and Philip Fauth.  _Glazialkosmogonie_.  1913.

[11]  James, Peter.  _Centuries of Darkness_.
      Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1993.

[12]  Kitchen, Kenneth Anderson.
      _The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 B.C.)_.
      Aris and Phillips Ltd, Warminster, 1973.

[13]  Lieblein, Jens.  _Recherches sur la chronologie egyptienne
      d'apres les listes genealogiques_.  A. W. Brogger, Christiana, 1873.

[14]  Lieblein, Jens.  _Recherches sur l'histoire et la civilization
      de l'ancienne Egypt_.  J. C. Hinrich'sche, Leipzig, 1873.

[15]  Meyer, Eduard.  _Aegyptische Chronologie_.
      Abhandlungen der K. Preuss. Akad. der Wiss, Berlin, 1904.

[16]  Newton, Isaac.  _The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended_.
      J. Tonson, London, 1728.

[17]  Radlof, Johann Gottlieb.
      _Zertrummerung der grossen planeten Hesperus und Phaethon und
      die darauf folgenden zerstorungen und ueberflutungen auf der erde;
      nebst neuen aufschlussen uber die mythensprache der alten volker_.
      G. Reimer, Berlin, 1823.

[18]  Torr, Cecil.  _Memphis and Mycenae_.
      Cambridge University Press, 1896.

[19]  Velikovsky, Immanuel.  _Ages in Chaos_.
      Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1952.

[20]  Velikovsky, Immanuel.  _Earth in Upheaval_.
      Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1955.

[21]  Velikovsky, Immanuel.  "Precursors".
      Kronos, vol. 7, no. 1, 1981:  pp. 48-54.

[22]  Velikovsky, Immanuel.  _Worlds in Collision_.
      Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1950.

[23]  Vitaliano, Dorothy B.  _Legends of the Earth_.
      Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1973.

[24]  Waskin, Mel.  _Mrs. O'Leary's Comet!_.
      Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, 1985.

[25]  Whiston, William.  _A New Theory of the Earth_.
      London, 1708.

[26]  Wood, Robert Muir.  _The dark side of the earth_.
      Allen & Unwin, London and Boston, 1985.

[27]  Zschaetzsch, Karl George.
      _Die Herkunft und Geschichte des arischen Stammes_.
      Arierverlag G.m.b.H., Nikolassee bei Berlin, 1920.

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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.