Response to Ted Holden's comments on Clube and Napier vs. the Saturnist position

The following comes from an exchange on between myself (Phil "Pib" Burns) and Ted Holden, who for a number of years was the principal proponent of Velikovskian and Saturnist style catastrophism on the USENET newsgroup.

In message 23 Dec 1994 17:49:51 -0500,
  Ted Holden writes:

> Phil Burns notes correctly that, before one buys off on anything as
> overwhelming as the Saturn hypothesis, he should try to explain all of
> the data with something simpler and more prosaic, such as the
> Clube/Napier model, noting that impacting asteroids might be seen one
> inside the other by observers on Earth, for instance.

I will respond briefly to your points, mainly by providing references that
I believe you (and others reading this) will find useful for further study
of the issues you've raised.

> That fails to explain the universality of Saturn worship in antique
> times, as well as the fact that Saturn should ever have been worshipped
> at all;  most people would never find it as it appears today.  It fails
> to explain why the sun, moon, and Venus were not worshipped as chieftain
> gods;  they are much brighter now.  It fails to explain the confusion of
> ancient names for the sun and for Saturn.  Generally, it fails to explain
> the mountain of evidence which Talbott and Cochrane have amassed relating
> to the Saturn system.

The Sun, Moon, and Venus -did- occupy primary positions at various times in
many cultures, including megalithic cultures (from the evidence of solar
and lunar alignments), Egypt, the Near East, the Native Americans of North
and South America (the Mayas oriented buildings to Venus alignments, for
example), and many others.  The written records of ancient people are
filled with reports of eclipses of the sun and moon.  Other records mention
the planets, mock suns, halos, comets, meteors, constellations, stars, and
novae.  Bjorkman[6], Stephenson[30], and Peng-Yoke[25] provide good
exmaples of the kinds of written astronomical records produced by the
ancients.  Brown[8] and Marshack[19] discuss astronomy in pre-literate

The brightness of a celestial object does not always indicate its
importance to a specific culture.  Urton[31] notes that Andean cultures
regard the "dark" constellations formed by dusty patches in the Milky Way
to be as imporant or even more important than the familiar "bright"
constellations formed of stars.  Hadingham[12] provides a good introduction
to many ancient cosmologies.  He also discusses how the ancients tried to
relate celestial happenings to terrestrial events.

Reiche[26] points out that, in many cultures, the perception of
astronomical phenomena was (and is) configurational rather than
positional.  A planet is not just the luminous point visible right now, but
it is also the (nearly) closed geometric figure which the luminous point
traces out in the zodiac.  For example, Venus sweeps out a pentagram in the
sky.  This did not go unnoticed by the ancients.

Santilliana and von Dechend[28] report that many cultures adopted the
metaphor of a giant grain mill for the cosmos.  The world axis corresponds
to the axis of the millstone.  The rulers of the planetary bodies grind
mortals to "mealy dust" in this great cosmic mill.

How do the gods turn the cosmic millstone about this world axis?  Consider
that you do not turn the axis itself of an ordinary millstone to grind
grain.  Instead, a millstone typically sports a handle on the top at the
-outside- edge.  You turn the millstone using this handle.  Likewise, the
cosmic millstone -- and therefore the cosmos and the fate of mortals -- is
controlled by the celestial object at the outside edge.  The ancients
considered Saturn to be the most distant planet -- at the "outside edge" of
the cosmic "mill" -- and therefore Saturn was the most powerful planet and
the oldest as well.  Hence Saturn must have been the ruler of the earliest
world age, the "golden age."  Saturn's relative dimness was irrelevant
because it resided at the position of cosmic power -- the outside edge --
not along the cosmic axis at the pole.

The classical authors such as Diodorus reported that the ancients called
Saturn the "Star of the Sun" because Saturn spent the most time in the sky
opposite the Sun.  Saturn was also known as Lu-Bat, "the steady one,"
because it could be counted on to be present in the night sky as the Sun
was in the day.  Modern astrology retains this ancient notion about the
relation and opposition of Saturn and the Sun.

I do not mean to say that there is nothing to the idea of a bright object
appearing at the celestial pole.  Michanowsky[21] states there is an old
esoteric tradition of a night sun.  He relates this to the occasional
appearance of bright supernovae.  The appearance of a supernova near the
celestial pole in antiquity might have given rise to the idea of a "polar
sun."  John J. O'Neill[24] suggested that passages in the Egyptian pyramid
texts referred to just such a polar supernova in the third millenium B.C.
in Draco, the constellation hugging the north celestial pole.

Aveni[1] and Beck[4] provide useful discussions on Saturn as the night
sun.  Jastrow[14] is the seminal paper on this subject.

Reiche[26] suggests the ancients believed the "true" identity of a foreign
god could be deduced from its attributes.  Thus, the ancients translated
the gods in charge of the upper, middle, and lower portions of the sky in a
foreign culture, as well as the gods in charge of the planets in a foreign
culture, into their own gods who "ruled" the same areas of the sky or
planets.  And what the ancients did, the Saturnists can do.

However, I believe the Saturnists conflate too many gods to Kronos/Saturn.
In the case of the Sumerian and Babylonian pantheons, this is easy to see
by considering the sacred numbers of the Sumerian deities.  The Sumerians
assigned sacred numbers to their gods.  McClain[20] has made the inspired
observation that these sacred numbers encode the primary ratios of music.
The functions of the gods correspond to their numbers in acoustical
theory.  If I understand the Saturnists correctly, they suggest that the
gods Anu/An, Ea, and Ninurta (among others) were all aspects of Saturn.
However, the sacred number for Anu/An was 60, for Ninurta, 50, and for
Ea/Enki, 40.  On this basis I believe it is fair to say that the Sumerians
did not consider these gods identical, so I don't either.

Incidentally, Santilliana and von Dechend[28] noted that a musical
instrument motif often appears along with the cosmic mill motif.  Since
their work preceded that of McClain, they were not aware of the reason for
this.  It would be interesting to see McClain and von Dechend integrate
their insights.

We must also distinguish between a god and the planet sacred to that god.
This is something which both Velikovsky and the Saturnists fail to do
adequately, in my opinion.  When the ancients referred to the god Saturn,
they were not necessarily referring to the planet.  When they referred to
the planet, they were not necessarily referring to the god.  Saturn was
"the star of Kronos," not Kronos himself.

Also consider that Hans Bellamy[5] proposed a quite different astronomical
interpretation for many of the myths Velikovsky and the Saturnists
associate with Venus, Mars, and Saturn.  Bellamy, a disciple of Hoerbiger's
"cosmic ice" theory, referred all the myths to the breakup and impact of a
Tertiary era moon, followed later by the capture of the present moon.  That
is, Bellamy suggested all these myths referred to the Earth's moon (two
different ones) and not to the planets or to the Sun.  This underscores the
problem I've mentioned to Mssrs. Cochrane and Talbott:  there are many
different ways to interpret the same myths, even if we only seek
astronomical progenitors.  We must look outside the vantage point of
mythology for any validation of the "correctness" of a particular
mythological interpretation.

I don't believe we should look for astronomical interpretations for all
myths, even myths involving catastrophes.  Vitaliano[32] discusses the
earth-based geological origins of many myths and legends.  Harris[13]
focusses on natural disasters in the United States and includes Native
American myths and legends which reflect those natural disasters.  Kirk[17]
summarizes the major systems of mythological interpretation and how they

> But there are four things which I would call big anomalies which the
> Saturn system either explains or puts you on the road to explaining, and
> for which the Club/Napier model has nothing to offer at all.

Clube and Napier's model is designed to address the issue of coherent
catastrophism resulting from the injection of giant comets into the inner
solar system.  This includes the effect on the earth's climate and
biosphere.  They also seek to relate long-term cycles of cometary showers
to galactic cycles.  Clube and Napier are not looking to create a "theory
of everything," nor are they seeking to explain every anomaly that one
might point out in science.  See Clube[9,10] for more details.

> One is the anomaly of dinosaurs, which is real enough and which
> scientists may be beginning to address in some places.  walteralter
> Notes that recent articles are having more to say about hydrostatic
> problems than have been noted previously.

As I noted in an earlier post, research into the paleoecology of dinosaurs
has been going on for a long time.  Papers about specific problems -- e.g.,
blood pressure -- have been appearing for decades.  For example, R. S.
Seymour[29] discussed blood pressure in sauropods.  Weishampel et al[33]
provides a wealth of information on dinosaurs, including references to the
relevant scientific literature up to 1990.

> Two is the anomaly of having all of the world's continental mass piled
> into one place, Pangaea, which would not occur for no reason, and the
> further note that a group of very serious scholars (Owen et. al.) have
> determined that Pangaea would not even fit on our present world, and
> required a smaller world (or as Lynn Rose notes, the smaller end of an
> world pulled into an egg-shape by the tidal force of the Saturn system).

The article by Nance et al[22] summarozes conventional geological models of
the formation of supercontinents and their evolution.  Beard[3] reports on
the work of John Baumgartner in simulating the breakup of Pangaea.
Oberbeck et al[23] suggests that impact events may have played a role in
the fragmentation of Gondwanaland.

> Three is the heavily documented finding of Julian Jaynes that the entire
> manner in which the human brain/mind worked just a few thousand years
> ago, was totally different from the manner in which they work now.
> This to me is the topic which justifies the entire line of research,
> since it indicates that man may actually now be in a fallen,
> disfunctional kind of a state, as opposed to being the end product of
> the ever-upward process noted in the Toshiba commercial.  Further
> discussion of antediluvian communications (as far as I'm concerned at
> least) will have to await talk.catastrophism.

Jaynes[15] is flawed for a number of reasons.  One is that studies with the
great apes such as chimpanzees indicate that these animals are self-aware.
If they are self-aware, it is likely that our remote ancestors were as
well.  Another flaw is that there are documents older than the first
millenium B.C.  time frame Jaynes proposes for the split of the "bicameral
mind" in which the protagonists clearly evidence self-awareness.  An
example would be the Epic of Gilgamesh.

I am willing to credit that controlled schizophrenia may have been
important in some ancient cultures, particularly in religious contexts.  I
do not believe anyone other than Jaynes believes that humans did not become
self-aware until just a few thousand years ago (and in some places, just a
few hundred years ago!), long after the rise of civilization.

Actually I would expect you to reject the ideas of Jaynes for another
important reason.  If Jaynes is right, we have no reason to believe that
-ANY- part of the literature, writing, carvings, or mythology of the
ancients reflects any physical events whatever.  The writings and myths
would simply be the products of the auditory and visual hallucinations of
minds which were not self-aware.  In this case, -ANY- attempt to
reconstruct the past based upon mythology -- and this includes the efforts
of Velikovsky and the Saturnists -- would be utterly futile.

> Again, there is no rational explaination for Indo-European and Semitic
> languages not being related given standard theories.

Why should the Semitic and Indo-European languages be related?  As
Diamond[11] notes, the language of tribes just a few miles apart in New
Guinea appears to be utterly unrelated.  As it happens, however, linguists
do usually consider the Semitic and Indo-European language groups to be
related.  Bomhard[7] discusses the Nostratic language superfamily.  See too
the articles by Wright[34] and Barbujani and Pilastro[2].  Renfrew[27] is
also interesting.  Note the comments in Diamond[11].

I hope other folks, who are more familiar with this subject area than I am,
can suggest other useful references.

> Four is the artificial complex which has been found on Mars.  Several of
> the astro servers on the web now have high-resolution gif/jpeg images of
> the several frames which show the Cydonia complex, along with an
> exceedingly lame disclaimer  stuff as just a strange coincidence, funny sun-angles etc.>  Any normal
> person reading that and viewing the images will infer that astronomers
> are unusually strange people, unusually into psychic denial.  They are
> denying what their eyes obviously tell them because it blows their
> cosmology.  You can't build something like that with space-suits on;
> the planet must be habitable before you build Cydonia.  There being no
> way to picture Mars inhabitable in anything like present circumstances,
> they first try to use the time magic-wand again and picture the whole
> thing being 200M years ago, but that creates an even bigger problem.
> The face on the monument is obviously not one of us, but a recent
> relative, from the look of it, one of Jay Matterness' reconstructions of
> Neanderthals with an Egyptian haircut.  But putting the entire business
> back even 2M, much less 200M years, would force the face to be that of
> homo-erectus or some such, basically a monkey.  The astronomers
> therefore prefer to deny the entire thing.

I don't believe astronomers deny the existence of the "Mars Face" or the
"Mars Pyramids."  What they say is that there is no substantial evidence
that these are artificial.  There are many natural Earth features which
also give the appearance of artificiality -- Devil's Tower in Wyoming comes
to mind.  At the Wisconsin Dells you can see natural water carvings which
look for all the world like a grand piano or an Indian face.  Until we get
clearer photos -- or better, we are able to inspect the Martian features at
first-hand -- I believe it is prudent to reserve judgement on their

If the Mars features prove to be artificial -- I personally doubt it, but
let's assume for the moment they prove to be artificial -- why should Mars
need to have been habitable in order for someone to have carved them?  For
example, what would have prevented an advanced civilization from using
robots to carry out the labor?

> The Saturn hypothesis would have Mars seemingly habitable within the very
> recent past;  certainly warm enough judging from location, certainly
> having gone through enough since, and recently, to explain oceans and
> atmosphere having been lost.

The article by Kerr[16] reports on work by Victor Baker and his colleagues
suggesting that Mars may have had an Earth-like atmosphere, an ocean, and
ice sheets at various times in the past.  It need not have been recently.
There is also some evidence that the rotational axis of Mars may still be
subject to chaotic tilting; see Laskar and Robutel[18].  Axis shifts would
greatly affect the climate of Mars.

> The Saturn system either explains or begins to explain all of the things
> mentioned, all of which require explaining.  The Clube/Napier system
> does not.

I believe the Saturn hypothesis is unnecessary to explain any of the
"anomalies" you mention.  The Saturn hypothesis also adds many problems of
its own, e.g.:

   -- Where did the extra mass go when Saturn exploded?
   -- What caused Saturn to explode?
   -- How did the Saturn configuration arise in the first place?
   -- How it is that we have seen -NO- other stellar systems exhibiting
      anything like the polar configuration?
   -- How did the Earth's biosphere survive?
   -- Why were the planets dispersed into the nearly circular/elliptical
      orbits they follow today, rather than ejected?
   -- Why should the Earth and other planets have survived at all?
   -- What are we to make of the many orbital synchronisms that could not
      have arisen in just a few thousand years?

It seems to me that the Saturn hypothesis adds too many new problems
without solving existing problems.  Therefore, I must reject it on the
basis of the current state of evidence.  Of course I would be willing to
change my mind if solid evidence should appear in the future.

Thank you for posting this interesting set of topics on which I could
expand.  I hope you find the time to peruse at least some of the references
I've recommended.  Happy holidays!


[1]   Aveni, Anthony F.  _Conversing with the Planets_.
      Times Books, New York, 1992.

[2]   Barbujani, Guido and Andrea Pilastro.
      "Genetic evidence on origin and dispersal of human populations
      speaking languages of the Nostratic macrofamily."
      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United
      States, vol. 90, no. 10 (May 15, 1993), pp. 4670-4673.

[3]   Beard, Jonathan.  "How a supercontinent went to pieces."
      New Scientist, vol. 137, no. 1856 (January 16, 1993), p. 19.

[4]   Beck, Roger.   _Planetary Gods and Planetary Orders in
      the Mysteries of Mithras._  E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1988.

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

[6]   Bjorkman, J. K.  "Meteors and Meteorites in the Ancient Near East".
      Meteoritics, vol. 8, no. 2, June 30, 1973.

[7]   Bomhard, Allan R.  _Toward Proto-Nostratic : a new approach to the
      comparison of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Afroasiatic_.
      J. Benjamins, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 1984.

[8]   Brown, Peter Lancaster.  _Megaliths, myths and men : an
      introduction to astro-archaeology_.
      Blandford Press, Poole, 1976.

[9]   Clube, S. V. M.  "Hazards from Space:  Comets in History and Science."
      In _How Science works in a crisis:  The mass-extinction debates_,
      William Glen, editor.  Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1994.

[10]  Clube, S. V. M., ed.  _Catastrophes and Evolution:
      Astronomical Foundations_.
      Cambridge University Press, New York, 1989.

[11]  Diamond, Jared M.  _The rise of the third chimpanzee_.
      Radius: London, 1991.

[12]  Hadingham, Evan.  _Early Man and the Cosmos_.
      University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1984.

[13]  Harris, Stephen L.  _Agents of Chaos_.
      Mountain Press Publishing Company, Montana, 1990.

[14]  Jastrow, M., Jr.  "Sun and Saturn."
      Revue d'Assyriologie, vol. 7 (1909), pp. 163-178.

[15]  Jaynes, Julian.  _The origin of consciousness in the
      breakdown of the bicameral mind_.
      Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1977.

[16]  Kerr, Richard A.  "An 'outrageous hypothesis' for Mars:
      episodic oceans."  Science, vol. 259, no. 5097 (February 12, 1993),
      pp. 910-911.

[17]  Kirk, G. S.   _The Nature of Greek Myths_.
      Penguin Books, London, 1974.

[18]  Laskar, J., and P. Robutel.  "The chaotic obliquity of the planets."
      Nature, vol. 361, no. 6413 (February 18, 1993), pp. 608-612.

[19]  Marshack, Alexander.  _The Roots of Civilization_.
      Revised and expanded edition.  Moyer Bell Limited, New York, 1991.

[20]  McClain, Ernest G.  "Musical Theory and Cosmology."
      The World and I, February, 1994, pp. 371-391.

[21]  Michanowsky, George.  _The Once and Future Star_.
      Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York, 1977.

[22]  Nance, R.D.; Worsley, T.R.; and Moody, J.B.
      "The supercontinent cycle."  Scientific American, vol. 259 (1988),
      no. 1, pp. 72-79.

[23]  Oberbeck, Verne R.; John R. Marshall; Hans Aggarwal.
      "Impacts, tillites, and the breakup of Gondwanaland."
      Journal of Geology, vol. 101, no. 1 (January 1993), pp. 1-19.

[24]  O'Neill, John J.  "4,000-Year-Old Supernova Revealed."
      New York Herald-Tribune; February 15, 1953; section II, page 12.

[25]  Peng-Yoke, Ho.  "Ancient and Mediaeval Observations of Comets
      and Novae in Chinese Sources."  Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 5 (1962),
      pp. 127-230.

[26]  Reiche, Harald A. T.  "The language of archaic astronomy:
      A clue to the Atlantis myth?"  In _Astronomy of the Ancients_,
      second revised edition, Kenneth Brecher and Michael Feirtag,
      editors.  The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA., 1993.

[27]  Renfrew, Colin.  _Archaeology and Language_.
      Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987.

[28]  Santilliana, Giorgio de and H. von Dechend.
      _Hamlet's Mill_.  Macmillan, London, 1969.

[29]  Seymour, R. S.  "Dinosaurs, endothermy, and blood pressure."
      Nature, vol. 262 (1976), pp. 207-208.

[30]  Stephenson, F. Richard and David H. Clark.
      _Applications of early astronomical records_.
      Oxford University Press, New York, 1978.

[31]  Urton, Gary.   _At the Crossroads of the Earth and the Sky._
      University of Texas Press, Austin, 1981.

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

[33]  Weishampel, David B., Peter Dodson, and Halszka Osmolska.
      _The Dinosauria_.  University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990.

[34]  Wright, Robert.  "Quest for the mother tongue".
      The Atlantic, vol. 267, no. 4 (April, 1991), pp. 39-59.

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