Velikovsky's Comet Venus-1
In Worlds in Collision,
Velikovsky noted many tales of disaster and
upheaval in which the agent of destruction possesses cometary attributes,
even as it is identified with the planet Venus. The anomalous "cometary"
traits of Venus in world mythology thus became key pieces of the argument,
and the strength of the argument derived from the breadth of sources.
Velikovsky did not rely on traditions of one region only, but drew on key
evidences from every ancient civilization. He noted, for example, that in
Mexican record, Venus was "the smoking star" the very phrase natives
employed for a "comet." He noted in both the Americas and the Near East,
a recurring association of Venus with celestial "hair" and with a
celestial "beard," two of the most common hieroglyphs for the comet in the ancient
world. But another popular glyph for the "comet" was the serpent or
dragon, a form taken by the planet Venus in virtually every land. And
the same planet, among the Babylonians and other races, was called the
"flame," or "torch of heaven," a widespread symbol of
a comet among ancient peoples.
According to Velikovsky, the history of the comet Venus, inspiring the most
powerful themes of ancient myth and ritual, speaks for a collective
memory of global upheaval: earthshaking battles in the sky, decimation of
nations on earth, an extended period of darkness, the end of one world age and
the birth of another.
When it comes to debunking Velikovsky's historical argument, no critic has
applied himself more energetically than Bob Forrest of England. In a six
volume work, Velikovsky's Sources, Forrest undertook to analyze virtually
every historical reference employed by Velikovsky, concluding that, when
taken in their actual context, the data brought forth by Velikovsky
simply do not support the thesis of Worlds in Collision
Forrest's work was later updated, corrected and summarized in a very
readable volume called A Guide to Velikovksy's Sources. which is the
source we will use in this overview.
Since publication of the latter work in 1985, Forrest's critique has been
frequently cited by scientific skeptics as a definitive blow to Velikovsky,
delivered on Velikovsky's own turf (ancient myth and history). And
whatever one's opinion on the merits of Forrest's analysis, it is to his
credit that, in the forty years since publication of Worlds in Collision,
his work is the only substantial critique of Velikovsky's use of myth.
"Despite the scholarly appearance of Velikovsky's work," Forrest writes,
"I think the theories put forward in Worlds in Collision are wrong
at an elementary and common sense level."
And what, at an "elementary
level," does Forrest object to? "The gist
of the objection to it is that one will nowhere find anything like a
direct historical reference to catastrophic bombardments by the planets
Venus and Mars."
Having devoted more than twenty years to the exploration of myth, I find
the objection particularly interesting because my own conclusion is
quite the opposite. The planetary subjects of Worlds in Collision are
Venus and Mars, and the catastrophic roles of these planets in ancient times are
not only evident, but provable through normal rules of logic and demonstration.
(For the sake of focus, these brief submissions will consider only the
cometary Venus.) It is not only possible to answer the question–was Venus
formerly a "comet"?–but to answer the question in overwhelming detail,
with verifiable data and an inescapable conclusion: Velikovsky's comet
Venus lies very close to the center of ancient religious, artistic and
How can it be that two
researchers, approaching the same field of data,
can draw such incompatible conclusions? The heart of the issue, I
suggest, has to do with one's approach to the subject matter. In
penetrating to the core of ancient celestial imagery, methodology is
VELIKOVSKIAN RESEARCH AND
The gap separating the
mainstream sciences and social sciences from
Velikovsky's revolutionary approach to myth needs to be appreciated: The
Velikovskian investigator has discovered that none of the primary themes
of myth answers to our familiar sky. Hence, to focus on recurring themes
is to focus on the recurring anomalies of myth.
But rather than confront the
issue of recurring anomalies, Forrest descends
into a swamp of marginal details, picking at virtually every paragraph of
Worlds in Collision, while rigorously avoiding cross-referencing.
As a result, the author consistently fails to see past the veil in which
modern perception has wrapped ancient myth. It is as if general patterns and
connections are of no interest. In every case of an anomaly noted by
Velikovsky, Forrest's "answer" is simply to cite someone else's guess at
an explanation (and I DO mean guess)–though many of the cited authorities
offered their guesses prior to Velikovsky's novel interpretation, and
none of these authorities seems aware of the larger pattern.
In this way, Forrest reverses
Velikovsky's approach, for Velikovsky
connects anomalous Venus images of one land with corresponding anomalies
from other parts of the world. Recurring anomalies, as correctly
by Velikovsky, are the key to discovery.
Let me say at the outset that
I have no interest in defending Velikovsky's
every word. More than once, Velikovsky did misuse his sources. (I had
stated this emphatically to others perhaps ten years before Bob
published criticisms) And my own opinion is that Velikovsky placed the
events in the wrong time. Additionally, I think that many
figures Velikovsky assumed to have been historical were in fact part of
mythical tradition having nothing at all to do with men of flesh an
events account for the recurring "catastrophe
myths," or must they all be explained by wholly separate, localized
disasters? If one resorts to the latter explanation, then no underlying
integrity of catastrophe myths is even possible in significant detail.
the inescapable counterpart of this observation is that, if the myths of
widespread cultures present the same improbable story in significant
detail, then it is the localized explanation that becomes impossible.
A reasonable methodology
cannot ignore the convergence of recurring
themes on an underlying idea, even if that idea stands outside modern
perception. To make this point it will be helpful to start with a single
example in one region, then work toward a comparison with the Venus
symbolism of other lands.