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THE NEW SCIENCE OF IMMANUEL VELIKOVSKY
In 1725 the first edition of The New Science of Giambattista Vico was published. It was ignored for at least a hundred years, and did not really come into its own until the twentieth century. Then those historians and social scientists who began to realize that a universal and inter-related science of man was becoming a necessity of thought, if the nature of man was ever to be known, found that Vico had made precisely this claim two centuries before. Vico insisted that, if a full history and understanding of man was to be known, the myths of earlier times ought to be taken seriously as themselves accounts of the actual history of those times. "The fables in their origin," said Vico, "were true and severe narrations (whence mythos, fable was defined as vera narratio, as we have frequently noted). But because for the most part they were originally monstrous, they were later misappropriated, then altered, subsequently became improbable, after that obscure, then scandalous, and finally incredible."(1)
Vico further proposed that, in that stage of history when rationality became ascendant, a collective amnesia took place; men denied that their own historical origins were contained in those myths, which were, by this time assumed to be merely the distortions and exaggerations of credulous and ignorant imaginations. Vico attacked the prevailing Cartesian orthodoxy of his day for ignoring the fertile resources of the human memory and imagination. Instead it was concentrating exclusively on men's capacity to think abstractly, rationally, and in straight lines. "What the Cartesians generally call method is only one species of it, that is the method of geometry. It behooves us to emphasize, instead, that there are as many methods as there are subject matters to be dealt with."(2)
In 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision was published. It was certainly not ignored, though many attempts were made to consign it to oblivion. It has not taken it one or two hundred years to force itself upon the attention of scientists and scholars from a host of disciplines, although it may take that long and more before its claims become unobjectionable. In it and subsequent works, Velikovsky makes the case anew for a unified science of man based upon a probe into his memory and an examination of the roots of his imagination, this, in order to bring both myth and logos back together, so that the history of man may be fully understood within the cosmos in which he has been a very involved participant. It was Velikovsky's thesis that, in the ancient myths, legends and religious origins of man, we find reliable evidence that the earth and its people have experienced and recorded a series of devastating cosmic catastrophes.
The parallels between Vico and Velikovsky should not be pushed too far; Vico's understanding of myth, for instance, was ethnological not celestial. The Vico renaissance, however, links up in a significant way with the work of Velikovsky to form the subject of the present paper. It is its thesis that, in certain instances, myth is a more reliable method than any other for reporting events, and, secondly, that a new science of man demands a recognition of the equal validity of both parts of his dual nature; that imagination and analysis, intuition and rationality, are necessary tools for a full understanding of both human history and human nature. These dualities, I propose to show are based upon relatively new discoveries concerns the operation of the human brain.
It has long been known that the brain does not simply record all experiences that impinge upon it. The organism has no apparatus for perceiving many forces that directly impinge upon it, and it systematically disregards complex regularities in the environment, once it has mastered them. Much of this is a necessity of Survival. If everything in one's environment, after all, had to be attended to consciously the organism would be inundated with more stimuli than it could manage. A person must be able to respond to the most pressing stimuli that impinge upon him in the interests of survival. Ornstein puts it well:
Personal consciousness is outward-oriented, involving action for the most part. It seems to have been evolved for the primary purpose of ensuring individual biological survival, for which active manipulation of discrete objects, sensitivity to forces which may pose a threat, separation of oneself from others are very useful. We first select the sensory modalities of personal consciousness from the mass of information reaching us. This is done by a multilevel process of filtration, for the most part sorting out survival-related stimuli. We are then, able to construct a stable consciousness from the filtered input.(3)
This process of selection is also governed by the person's most salient needs and wishes, for which the sensory or selective threshold is lowered so that appropriate objects can be perceived in a figure to ground relationship. Thus, when a person looks out on the world he will tend to find a world that supports his particular construction of it. Moreover, this is a process that quickly becomes automatic and, therefore, unwitting. Since we tend to assume that consciousness is our surest guide to knowing, then it quickly becomes implicit to us that what we perceive with our senses is all there is. While it is true that man has managed to extend his awareness of the cosmos far beyond the limits of his naked senses, science, which has accomplished this feat, remains firmly wedded to a faith in the rationality and sufficiency of man's consciousness. This, in turn, informs him of the rationality of the universe and its subjection to invariable and unchanging laws. As much as man has discovered about the universe and himself, through his confidence in his rational consciousness, it is. nonetheless, a circular and self-serving system. The more rational the cosmos, the easier it is to control, hence man's survival in it is more effectively secured. He has only to operate on the assumption that he and the universe are rational for his consciousness to select the appropriate information in order that he may conclude that they are.
There, of course, remains much in the world that does not fit into this program for control and survival−things that are unpredictable, unique, and non-rational. Some of these may be denied, ignored, or attacked while other such phenomena are cherished and even celebrated, as art, play and religion-but they lack immediate survival value, although they do "make life worth living." Immanuel Velikovsky has challenged the cardinal assumption of this entire scheme-the fundamental orderliness, constancy and rationality of the cosmos. He has drawn upon evidence from precisely those areas of experience the function of which is to edify and entertain to support a scientific hypothesis. He asks us, in a word, to place as much confidence in the nonrational as in the rational, in the imagination as in reason. We are to believe that the heavens are inconstant and unpredictable, the earth subject to episodic upheavals, and that we are to rely upon the ambiguities and imprecision of works of the imagination and of religious faith to enable us to more fully understand the world. Velikovsky does not ask us to forsake science and embrace the irrational−nothing could be further from the truth−but what kind of science would be possible were logic and intuition, rationality and imagination to unite in examining a not always predictable and not always constant cosmos?
In recent years it has been discovered that the active and selective functioning of the human brain, with its penchant for verbal, rational and sequential thought processes represent only one of two modes of the brain's operation. The brain is, of course, made up of two hemispheres which are joined together by a large mass of interconnecting fibers called the "corpus callosum." For a long time, however, it was assumed that virtually all the brain's important resources were located in the left hemisphere, in spite of the great Hughlings Jackson's suggestion in 1864 that: "If, then, it should be proved by wider evidence that the faculty of expression resides in one hemisphere, there is no absurdity in raising the question as to whether perception−its corresponding opposite−may not be seated in the other." (4) The prevailing view was represented by Henschen's view that the right hemisphere was merely a "regressing organ" although "it is possible that the right hemisphere is a reserve organ."(5) As recently as 1967, Gazzaniga was only able to suggest rather vaguely that "in certain other mental processes the right hemisphere is on a par with the left. In particular, it can independently generate an emotional reaction." (6) It can now be concluded, says Ornstein, that:
The left hemisphere (connected to the right side of the body) is predominantly involved with analytic, logical thinking, especially in verbal and mathematical functions. Its mode of operation is primarily linear. This hemisphere seems to process information sequentially. This mode of operation of necessity must underlie logical thought, since logic depends on sequence and order. Language and mathematics, both left-hemisphere activities, also depend predominantly on linear time.
If the left hemisphere is specialized for analysis, the right hemisphere (governing the left side of the body) seems specialized for holistic mentation. Its language ability is quite limited. This hemisphere is primarily responsible for our orientation in space, artistic endeavor, crafts, body image, recognition of faces. It processes information more diffusely than does the left hemisphere, and its responsibilities demand a ready integration of many inputs at once. If the left hemisphere can be termed predominantly analytic and sequential in its operation, then the right hemisphere is more holistic and relational, and more simultaneous in its mode of operation.(7)
The right hemisphere does not appear to be selective in its operation by imposing its needs and assumptions upon the environment-but appears, instead, to be global and receptive. As such, it seems to correspond to what Arthur Deikman calls the "receptive" mode; left hemispheric dominance, on the other hand, would correspond to what he calls the active" mode of the organism. According to Deikman, "the receptive mode is a state organized around intake of the environment rather than manipulation."(8) The agencies that dominate, when the mode is in the ascendancy, are the sensory-perceptual system over the muscle system, diffuse over focused attention, paralogical thought processes over object-based logic, decreased instead of heightened boundary perception, and the dominance of the sensory over the formal characteristics of objects. Which of the two modes will predominate in a given situation has to do with "the goal of the organism's activity, whether or not the environment is to be acted upon, or whether stimuli or nutriment are to be taken in . . . In the pure state of the receptive mode, the organism does seem helpless to act on the environment, as in states of ecstasy or drug intoxication."(9) Or, one might suppose, a cosmic catastrophe!
The operation of each mode is rarely an all-or-nothing thing, but rather a matter of predominance. Nor, in their different functional orientations of taking in versus acting on the environment, should the receptive mode be thought of as regressively ignoring or retreating from the world, though either or both may be the case; it is simply a different strategy for dealing with the world. It would be the more appropriate course when there is nothing that can be done to alter the environment. It may also predominate as a healthy corrective to the intense survival concerns of the active mode, and be exercised in fantasy, play or relaxation. It is, Deikman suggests, a strategy for the present moment rather than for the future.
In the midst of an unexpected or catastrophic event the receptive mode would be more appropriate than the verbal-rational active mode. When things are unpredictable or unprecedented, logical and sequential reasoning would have no prior experience upon which to conceptualize or select what would be the most survival-relevant stimuli to attend to and act upon. Everything would be a potential threat to survival. All the person could do would be to receive or take in what was happening. Only the capacities of the right hemisphere of the brain would be suitable for such a situation: the sensory-perceptual image, the whole situation, one's orientation in space rather than time, the immediate moment rather than the sequence of events. Deikman's description of the psychotic response to personal catastrophe is an apt one for a catastrophe of cosmic proportions as well:
The control gates are thrown down, and the world floods in through the senses and through the inner stores of affect and memory. The action mode is abandoned. When the person begins to drown in the overload, he asserts control in a delusional compromise that to some extent restores order and effectiveness while providing a substitute object.(10)
There has in recent years grown up a tendency to recognize in the psychotic response less a total disintegration of the personality than the strategy of a person inundated by inconsistent, illogical and unpredictable information. It is information which cannot be fitted into the customary rubrics for control and rational understanding, to organize what is happening in a global, imaginary way, with boundaries diffused and emotions guiding perceptions. This process leads to a highly subjective, consensually invalid, and non-rational response to the situation. But, considering the bombardment of simultaneous and disorienting imponderables upon the individual, it is thought that his peculiar solution brings them all together about as well as could be expected-and, in its own way, as logically−under the circumstances.(11)
The visitation of a catastrophe of cosmic proportions upon the peoples of the earth might well be likened to a kind of collective psychosis, with the exception of the fact that, since the experience would have been shared by all, the response would be at least approximately similar and, therefore, consensually validated. On every side man would be inundated with a rain of destruction and danger far too great for his normal capacities to cope with. The active mode of response would be immobilized, for there would be virtually nothing that could be done to control or even escape the situation. Only the receptive mode could operate, for the organism, both individual and collective, could only receive what was happening. In order to discern the meaning of it all, or even just to stay alive, formal language, logical sequences of events, assumptions of constancy and rationality would be hopelessly inadequate. But images, stories, personifications−all responses of the receptive mode, of the right hemisphere of the brain−would be the most appropriate and effective means for registering the totality of the event, as well as for deriving meaning from it. In short, myth would be the best vehicle available for receiving and recording events too overwhelming and unprecedented for the rational and sequential responses that are appropriate for more customary times.
The question of why it was that history gives us no formal records of the catastrophes Velikovsky describes, instead of only myths, folklore, and tales of religious origins, is really not that puzzling. Events of the proportions Velikovsky describes could simply not be reported with objectivity and rationality. The brain could not function in that manner under such circumstances. Those who experienced the events were so inundated that they could only experience what was happening receptively and globally. Myth, the action of the gods, is the supreme human creation for providing meaning in a total and imaginary sense. Moreover, myth, as a reception of the totality of an occurrence is not selective or eliminative−it cannot presume to be−and therefore contains within itself the most complete representation of the catastrophic event that could be obtained under the circumstances.
A myth may be said to be an event that cannot be rationally and analytically understood. Myth personifies and tells a story about powers that are awesome or overwhelming. As such, they cannot be rationalized, that is to say, reduced to abstract and conceptual categories, logical and regular processes which, in turn, imply a predictable sequence of events. Once an event or process is thereby intellectually mastered it has been demystyfied. Where once a myth was needed in order to characterize or interpret the meaning or total significance of an event, such a need no longer exists. In other words, myth is a response to the absence of human mastery when confronted by the presence of awe or wonder. A cosmic catastrophe would obviously be such an event, but, of course, it would not be the only circumstance in which myth was called upon to explain or interpret what was happening. Any situation in which man is helpless to act or unable to understand and verbally conceptualize would, in responding with a mythological interpretation ' be a function of The receptive, nonverbal, totalistic activity of the right hemisphere of the brain. As soon as myth becomes verbalized, invariably through oral communication, it calls upon the verbal capacities of the brain's left hemisphere. In this way an integration of experience and comprehension is brought about. But, it is an integration in which, due to the role of the image and of total meaning, the right hemisphere would predominate. As the events which myth interprets become more rationally understood, the verbal and rational capacities of the left hemisphere would gradually take over, and myth would be regarded more and more as a work of the imagination; in Vico's words, "they were originally monstrous, they were later misappropriated, then altered, subsequently became improbable, after that obscure, then scandalous, and finally incredible." (12)
Given the threat to survival, the terror and loss of control involved in a cosmic catastrophe, man's rational and verbal consciousness would indeed be little inclined to remember the event, any more than it would have been originally able to cope with or effectively record it. An experience as awesome and unprecedented as a cosmic catastrophe could not even be registered by the verbal brain, only by the perceptual brain. As the memory of the experience was passed from generation to generation, there eventually comes a time when man would gradually realize greater rational understanding and mastery of the regularities that he found in the cosmos. Then, the rational mental apparatus of the left brain would invariably, finding no experience remotely comparable to cosmic catastrophe, interpret the personified description of the events as foreign to its way of experience, and, therefore, as works of the imagination. This denial of his earlier experiences by more rational man is directly comparable to what Ernest Schachtel has called, in one of the two classic works of psychoanalysis, childhood amnesia. He writes:
The categories (or schemata) of adult memory are not suitable receptacles for early childhood experiences and therefore not fit to preserve these experiences and enable their recall. The functional capacity of the conscious, adult memory is usually limited to those types of experience which the adult consciously makes and is capable of making.(13)
Further on Schachtel is more explicit:
The incompatibility of early childhood experience with the categories and the organization of adult memory is to a large extent due to what I call the conventionalization of the adult memory. Conventionalization is a particular form of what one might call schematization of memory. Voluntary memory recalls largely schemata of experience rather than experience. These schemata are mostly built along the lines of words and concepts of the culture. . . . Obviously the schemata of experience as well as of memory are determined by the culture which has developed a certain view of the world and of life, a view which furnishes the schemata for all experience and all memory. . . . Every fresh and spontaneous experience transcends the capacity of the conventionalized memory schema and to some degree of any schema. That part of the experience which transcends the memory schema as performed by the culture is in danger of being lost because there exists as yet no vessel, as it were, in which to preserve it.(14)
The division that exacerbates the problem that Schachtel describes, and the same one described in classical psychoanalysis between the conscious and the unconscious, is the way the left hemisphere registers events−verbally-and the way the right hemisphere performs that function−perceptually and totalistically. The human problem, both individually and collectively, is that of overcoming this division. A person could then draw upon the integrated resources of the whole brain, and not merely the right hemisphere when the person is in a position to master the environment. Thus far human life seems to be a matter, literally, of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.
Is not myth, however, as a work of interpretation, of the diffuse boundary perception and emotional involvement of the right hemisphere's response, subject to exaggeration and distortion in its report of an event? How can it be, as the present paper suggests, a more, not less, accurate record of what has been observed? As personified interpretations of otherwise mysterious events, myths involve less rigorous regard, certainly, for the strict canons of objective accuracy demanded by our rationalistic culture; the more so since myth is more concerned to ascertain the meaning of an event than to dissect the facts of a situation. Nonetheless, it is a common experience or event that myth is an attempt to comprehend. It cannot ignore the commonality of that experience, for myth must satisfy not just one person or even a handful of people, but an entire tribe or culture. It must make sense of a problem or mystery in the common experience of a community of people. The first twelve chapters of Genesis, for instance, bear little resemblance to anything that is likely to have happened historically, except perhaps for the Deluge. Yet, this work attempts to answer fundamental questions−how the world began, how evil, suffering, murder, and the discord produced by language differences came about -in ways that speak meaningfully to the common existential concerns, not merely of one culture, the Israelites, but of generations of men and cultures across two millennia.
Myth, then, is not merely a subjective creatio ex nihilo, but the interpretation of a situation that has been commonly experienced. It entirely lacks the arbitrary quality that is implied by the term subjective. Instead it may be said to be the response of the right hemisphere to an event rather than the left. The story of Phaethon, as an example, is not just a fairy tale about a "once upon a time" when the sun ran from its course, but an interpretative response to an experience commonly observed. Apart from the personification of the event as described by Ovid, it is in no way allegorical, nor is it described in a fanciful or even exaggerated way. Phaethon, the impulsive son of Helios, begs his father to grant hirn one favor−to drive the chariot of the Sun through the heavens just once. As might be expected, he drives it in his customary impulsive way, carelessly and improperly, until he crashes into mythical river Eridanus. The events that accompanied this wild occurrence are described entirely naturalistically, and as they doubtless would have taken place had the earth's normality been interrupted:
. . .the earth in
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Then Libya.
Became a desert where
wild flames ate the dew,
The seas shrank into
sand and from their waters
In a similar vein Ovid describes the Flood of Deucalion:
At his command the
mouths of fountains opened
Where land was the
great rivers toppled orchards,
All vanished as though
lost in glassy waters,
The naturalistic quality of Ovid's description of catastrophic events are all the more remarkable when it is considered that he not only wrote hundreds of years after any such events would have happened, but he by no means took the accounts seriously as literal or historic records. It is, of course, a commonplace of modern literary criticism to assume that the course of time would have led to exaggerations and embellishments in stories passed on over hundreds of years. Such assumptions are made by people who no longer need to rely on their memories as the ancients did. Moreover, the accounts as they did come down by the time of Ovid preserve a remarkably naturalistic quality in terms of what conceivably would have happened under circumstances of great catastrophe, as has already been pointed out. This would appear to speak well for the faithfulness of the oral traditions of ancient times.
Velikovsky maintains that the Trojan War which forms the basis for Homer's Iliad takes place against the backdrop of heavenly spectacle of Mars (Ares) and Venus (Pallas Athene) appearing to take sides in the battle below, the former with the Trojans, the latter with the Greeks. As the two heavenly bodies appeared to contend with one another in the skies above, the earth was not immune from the struggle, as Homer notes:
Discord the mighty barrier of nations, loud shouted Athena, standing outside the wall on the edge of the moat, or moving upon the seashore: Ares shouted aloud from the other side, black as a storm cloud, crying his commands from the citadel of Troy, or speeding over Callicolone by Simoeis river.
So the blessed gods drove the two hosts together and made the bitter strife burst forth. The Father of men and gods thundered terribly from on high, Poseidon made the solid earth quake beneath, and the tall summits of the hills; mount Ida shook from head to foot, and the citadel of Ilios trembled, and the Achaian ships. Fear seized Hades the lord of the world below; fear made him leap from his throne and cry aloud, lest Poseidon Earthshaker should break the earth above him, and lay open to every eye those gruesome danksome abodes which even the gods abhor−so terrible was the noise when gods met gods in battle.(17)
The great founding event for the people of Israel, the deliverance at the Sea of Passage, also fits the rubric of those Greek myths that describe colossal natural events: the natural event is described in great detail, while the significance of the event alone is mythologized.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily; and the Egyptians said "Let us flee from before Israel; for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians."
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen." So Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its wonted flow when the morning appeared and the Egyptians fled into it, and the LORD routed the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the hosts of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not so much as one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. (Ex. 14:21-29)
Even the famous event of Joshua and the "day the sun stood still" contains, in the midst of the obvious wonderment of the Biblical account, mention of what seems to refer to something like a hail of meteorites preceding the miraculous event, suggesting that, here too, may be a remarkably faithful record of an actual event, albeit, of course, interpreted in terms of divine intervention:
And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the LORD threw down great stones from heaven upon them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the men of Israel killed with the sword.
Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel,
"Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon,
and thou Moon in the valley of Aijalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD hearkened to the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. (Josh. 10:11-14)
In the above tales we are dealing with accounts that were written down a few hundred years after the events to which they refer which, in the case of the Biblical accounts at least, creates problems of redaction, the conscious and intentional manipulation of the text. However, the descriptions of the natural events involved do not, for the most part, seem to suffer much of what could be called marked exaggeration. They are rather straight-forward and seem generally consistent with what might well be expected to happen on the earth were a celestial body to come as close to it as Velikovsky suggests.
Let us now examine some of the myths of the destructions of the three worlds from the oral tradition of the Hopi Indians of the South-Western United States. These myths have not been put into writing during a period of what may be over three millennia. (It is interesting, in this connection, that the Hopi consider themselves to be the first people to have arrived in the Americas). According to their mythology, the world has been destroyed three times, in each case because of the wickedness of mankind. Just before the destruction of the first world the Hopi were told by Sotuknang:
"You will go to a certain place. Your Kopavi (vibratory center on top of the head) will lead you. This inner wisdom will give you the sight to see a certain cloud, which you will follow by day, and a certain star which you will follow by night. Take nothing with you. Your journey will not end until the cloud stops and the star stops." .
... When they were all safe and settled Taiowa commanded Sotuknang to destroy the world. Sotuknang destroyed it by fire because the Fire Clan had been its leaders. He rained fire upon it. He opened up the volcanoes. Fire came from above and below and all around until the earth, the waters, the air, all was one element, fire, and there was nothing left except the people safe inside the womb of the earth.(18)
The second destruction of the earth is a brief but fascinating description of the kind of cataclysm Velikovsky describes:
So again, as on the First World, Sotuknang called on the Ant people to open up their underground world for the chosen people. When they were safely underground, Sotuknang commanded the twins, Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya, to leave their posts at the north and south end of the world's axis where they were stationed to keep the earth properly rotating.
The twins had hardly abandoned their stations when the world, with no one to control it, teetered off balance, spun around crazily, then rolled over twice. Mountains plunged into seas with a great splash, seas and lakes sloshed over the land; and as the world spun through cold and lifeless space it froze into solid ice.(19)
The third world is destroyed by flood, according to the Hopi tradition, a flood, moreover, which contains many similarities to the Biblical Deluge. Following Velikovsky's chronology of catastrophes, the Hopi Deluge seems out of order, unless, of course, that part of the world was flooded sometime during the events around 750 B.C. It seems more reasonable to suppose, however, that, over a period of thousands of years of oral tradition that the order of such awesome events, the nature of which was remembered to a remarkably accurate degree, was, nonetheless, rearranged, possibly for schematic reasons associated with the Hopi religion.
We are not, in the present paper, in any position to make an exhaustive study of all myths of catastrophe, much less to compare them with other categories of myth. The pattern that does seem to be common to those that we have examined is that the imaginative element, which plays an unmistakable role, is restricted to the interpretation of why the gods chose to act in the awesome ways that they did. The consequences of their decisions are, on the other hand, described in ways that are exaggerated only with respect to the assumptions of a uniform and constant cosmos. It may be supposed that the events themselves were so overwhelming that there was no room for exaggeration, only an awestruck taking in of the spectacle which was inundating people. This, however, is exactly what one would expect if the brain received what was happening in a total rather than a rationally and verbally selective sense, that is to say, with right rather than left hemispheric predominance.
The selective activity of the verbal brain appears to have acted much as it would be expected to act in the life of an individual following a series of traumatic experiences. The appropriate defenses are mounted so that a view of the world can be sustained that is indisputably constant and uniform. An individual who has had a terrifying and highly insecure childhood is extremely sensitive to subsequent insecurity and seeks, at all costs, to create and sustain an unalterably secure and stable world. He will be intolerant of evidence of instability and lack of control in both himself and in others. A similar process seems to have occurred on an historical scale, particularly in the West. Indeed one might speculate that the unprecedented creative outburst all over the known world in religious thought in the seventh and sixth centuries before Christ, in which we find the prophets of Israel, Lao Tzu, Confucius, and the Buddha, would have represented the quest for a spiritually stable center, given that the visible world was manifestly so unstable.
Soon thereafter, in his rational thought, however, man apparently began to look for more tangible sources of security, and even began to deny that the celestial world was, or could ever have been, unstable or inconstant. It is generally considered that, in Western thought, such a watershed took place in the work of Plato and Aristotle. The pre-Socratic philosophers, Heraclitus most notably, had founded their thought on a frank recognition of the transiency and inconstancy of the world. Plato, in some senses, bridges the past recognition that there has been dramatic inconstancy in the past, in the quest for a basis for a source of unquestioned stability. At virtually the same time as he acknowledges that there have been great cataclysms in the past, Plato urges that those who do entertain such dangerous beliefs be severely punished. In the Laws, that strange work of his old age, Plato declares that the most dangerous and subversive teachers are those that deny the eternal constancy of the heavens. To Plato, such constancy is the only guarantee we have for intellectual, political and moral order. As Stecchini* points out, Plato, and later Aristotle, seem to protest altogether too much that a planet may not become a comet, and a comet may not become a planet. Finally, Plato proposes that those who persist in believing in a universe subject to chance and unpredictability be imprisoned for five years, after which, if they still refuse to acknowledge the error of their ways, they be put to death. (20)
* One of the contributing authors to The Velikovsky Affair - Ed.
Yet it is a younger Plato who describes the effect of drastic changes in the heavens upon the earth. He reports that: "There is a time when God himself guides and helps to roll the world in its course; and there is a time, on the completion of a certain cycle, when he lets go, and the world being a living creature, . . . turns about and by an inherent necessity revolves in the opposite direction. . . . Of all changes in the heavenly motions, we may consider this to be the greatest and most complete." Plato adds: "Hence there necessarily occurs a great destruction of (animals) which extends also to the life of man." (21) Then there is the remarkable statement in the Timaeus that:
There have been, and will be hereafter, many and divers destructions of mankind, the greatest by fire and water, though other lesser ones are due to countless other causes. Thus the story current also in your part of the world, that Phaethon, child of the Sun, once harnessed his father's chariot but could not guide it on his father's course and so burnt up everything on the face of the earth and was himself consumed by the thunderbolt−this legend has the air of a fable; but the truth behind it is a deviation of the bodies that revolve in heaven round the earth and the destruction, occurring at long intervals, of things on earth by a great conflagration.(22)
Plato appears to stand at that time when men were of a strong disposition to deny the oral and written memories of what had once happened by creating rational systems of thought that would provide for them the sense of security and control that they could never have if they continued to believe that the earth was indeed subject to periodic destructive upheavals. Plato himself addresses the fact that, even by his time, the memory of great catastrophes had vanished to the point where such accounts as were available were dismissed as "little better than nursery tales." He has the Egyptian priest address Solon saying that "you know nothing of it because the survivors for many generations died leaving no word in writing."(23) To this Velikovsky replies:
The memory of the cataclysms was erased, not because of lack of written tradition, but because of some characteristic process that later caused nations, together with their literate men to read into their traditions allegories or metaphors where actually cosmic disturbances were clearly described. (24)
The characteristic process of which Velikovsky writes is the penchant that humans have to seek to regularize their environment. This is done by reducing it to rational and verbal categories, the better to control the situation by being in a position to anticipate what is likely to happen next, and for the foreseeable future if possible. Indeed, where possible, man seems disposed to avoid having to resort to the receptive mode in which the right hemisphere of the brain predominates, except as a momentary escape from the rigors of a linear and controlled existence. The left side of the body, which, of course, is the side governed by the right hemisphere, is associated, the world over, with qualities of life that, in some cultures, like our own, are regarded as suspect, and in others are regarded as sacred, mysterious, creative, feminine, passive, and intuitive. According to William Domhoff:
Folklore has it that the "Right" is good and the "Left" bad in Western thinking, particularly political thinking, because of the seating arrangements in the French National Assembly of the Eighteenth century−the nobles sitting on the king's right, the then upstart capitalists sitting on his left. However, Theodore Thass-Thienemann..... an expert on psycho-linguistics, has shown that this right-good, left-bad polarization has been present for a very long time in the entire Indo-European language family, as well as in Hungarian, a non-Indo-European language. Further, psychologist Sylvan Tomkins . . . has shown that the underlying assumptions dividing the political Left and Right are also the basis for age-old ideological disputes in mathematics, philosophy, science, and child-rearing. The work of these two men suggests that the real problem is why the nobles supposedly sat on the king's right hand in the first place.(25)
Ornstein suggests that the right-left dichotomy is virtually synonymous with Freud's conscious-unconscious duality. "The workings of the 'conscious' mind are held," he points out, "to be accessible to language and to rational discourse and alteration; the 'unconscious' is much less accessible to reason or to the verbal analysis. Some aspects of 'unconscious' communication are gestures, facial and body movements, tone of voice."(26) It would be equally valid to pair the right side and the ego, and the left side and the id. "The ego," says Freud, "represents what we call reason and sanity, in contrast to the id which contains the passions."(27)
Man is led by his ego generally because, when he can conceptualize and rationalize events, the world seems more within his control, more secure and predictable. But when the id is allowed to predominate, with its indifference to time, its inability to clarify boundaries, its absence of logic, both the self and the world are in an unpredictable, irrational state of affairs in which the organism is forced to be at the mercy of events. This is not a very comforting situation for man, the only animal that knows that it must die some day, and therefore, wants to control the environment so as to postpone that day as long as possible. Thus, in a sense, it might be said that the penchant for control and predictability in the human race plays much the same role as the ego does in the individual: it provides a sense of security and mastery, and keeps at bay as many of the forces of chaos as possible. We may even perhaps speculate that man's reluctance to be open or receptive to the world, and thereby vulnerable, was dealt a particularly severe blow by the terrors of the cosmic catastrophes that he, perhaps many times in his history, was forced to experience, and in the face of which he was completely helpless and vulnerable. (28)
It is not surprising that the realization that the right hemisphere of the brain was responsible for the performance of many important and hitherto neglected capacities of a nonverbal, non-rational nature has come at the time it has. Western man is beginning to appreciate the possibility that he has overdeveloped himself verbally, at the expense of nonverbal, non-rational and intuitive skills that he had virtually forgotten that he had; or at least that they could be of any value to him. Psychoanalysis represents the first realization in modern Western culture that the neglect of the receptive dimensions of man's nature has serious adverse consequences on his behavior, both personally and collectively. Personal and social health can only exist, said Freud, as the split in man, between his conscious self and his unconsciousness is overcome. Indeed the development of an ideal of the whole or integral person seems to be rapidly overtaking the traditional ideal of the good person. This is largely due, in fact, to the influence of psychoanalysis, and the schools that have developed in its wake, in demonstrating the deleterious effect of the development of only one side of the personality.
Coming as he has out of the psychoanalytic tradition, Immanuel Velikovsky's work represents a major attempt to reintegrate man's forgotten past with his rationalized awareness of himself and his history. By his application of the psychoanalytic method of rooting our buried memories of traumatic incidents in the past, in this case of the human race itself, Velikovsky shows us what a unified science of the totality of man's experience in the cosmos is able to accomplish. Perhaps not everyone possesses the capacity to develop the necessary mastery of as many disciplines as this remarkable individual has done to be able to formulate such an all-embracing theory. The next thing to that, and perhaps in some ways even better, is for scholars representing the many disciplines that are found to converge, when such grand theorizing as this is attempted, to begin to work together in recognition of the interrelationship and interdependency of all things within the cosmos. While we have reaped immeasurable benefits and an unprecedented amount of knowledge by a rational and conceptual examination of objects as they are separated out of the environmental field so that they can be subjected to detailed and sequential analytic, the very extent of that knowledge is now making us aware that all objects are influenced by each other in a vast network of relationships. If we are to genuinely understand the universe in which we live, we must find ways of examining the totality and interrelationship of things. That involves, not just a pooling of scholarly resources, but a new way of grasping scientific truths, one that deals in wholes, fields, gestalts, rather than with separate objects, specimens, and controlled variables−or at least in relationship to these more traditional methods of science.
Velikovsky's method of unearthing the buried memories of cosmic catastrophe, as well as his mastery of so many fields by discerning their relationship to one another, suggests the path that such a new science of man and cosmos must take. In order to grasp the total context in which events occur, it is not sufficient merely to rely upon rational, sequential and verbal thought. In addition to those approaches, the faculty of intuition which, by its very nature, is able to receive the whole picture of a situation is required. It is an axiom that is accompanied by a legion of anecdotes, from Archimedes in his bathtub, to Kekule's dream of the snake eating its own tail, that intuition accompanies rationality and leads it in most if not all great scientific discoveries. Intuition, however, seems like such an irrational, random quality to depend upon in work that it demands as much precision, control, and order as does scientific work. It does not, after all, come just when it is beckoned but, proverbially, "in a sudden flash," and, often, the harder it is sought the more surely it eludes. Yet much of the apparent unreliability of intuition may well have to do with the fact that it is left to chance, and not cultivated.
Idries Shah, in his fascinating work The Sufis, (29) maintains that the beginnings of modern science began under the influence of those mystics of Islam whose teachings strongly emphasized the cultivation of the intuitive quality of the mind as essential if one would learn to understand the full truth of things in their total context, rather than in isolation. If modern science would fully understand the whole truth of things, then it is time that the intuitive capacity of the mind were cultivated and developed. Since we now know that that elusive talent is a product of the previously neglected and poorly understood right hemisphere of the brain, we may come to realize that intuition is not some indefinable, irrational, mystical claim to call upon only when all rational and sensible explanations are insufficient. Now that we know it exists in a tangible place, so to speak, and that it has the capacity to receive stimuli in their totality, we may begin to find that it can offer us a tool by which to understand the various contexts in which all things are imbedded. and be able to do better science because of it.
By his willingness to listen to his own intuition and thereby free himself from the rational assumptions which bind most of us, Velikovsky was able to show how a category of human thought that was not considered to have anything to do with science could illuminate hidden and forgotten events in human history, thereby more fully completing our understanding of history, of human nature, of the earth and the solar system. In addition, it enabled him to articulate an entirely new element within the interrelationship of celestial bodies, namely electromagnetism. A goodly portion of the continuing animus against Velikovsky from within the scholarly and scientific worlds has been precisely because people trained exclusively within disciplinary boundaries are simply incapable of understanding an argument that claimed to be scientific but drew upon material from areas that were not classified as having to do with science. Then, when Velikovsky proceeded to introduce new constructs like electromagnetism in space to explain how events could take place, when Newtonian celestial mechanics apparently denied that they could, it seemed prima facie evidence that he was entirely outside the boundaries of legitimate science. But what Velikovsky was doing was blazing the trail of a new science, one that would exclude no area of human activity from its purview, and would be willing to draw upon all the resources of the human mind-rational and intuitive-to create, as the psychoanalyst does with the individual, an integrated and whole history, rather than a fragmented and selected history of man and cosmos. Only such a new science is equal to so all-encompassing a task.
1. Vico, Giambattista, The New Science, para. 814.
2. Ibid., para. 164.
3. Ornstein, Robert, The Psychology of Consciousness (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co., 1972), P. 17.
4. Bogen, Joseph E., "The Other Side of the Brain: an Appositional Mind," (1969), in The Nature of Human Consciousness, edited by Robert Ornstein, (New York: Viking Press, 1973), pp. 100-101.
5. Ibid., p. 102.
6. Gazzaniga, M. S., "The Split Brain in Man," (1967), in The Nature of Human Consciousness, p. 27.
7. Ornstein, R., op. cit., pp. 51-53; also see D. Thomsen "Split Brain & Free Will," Science News, April 20, 1974, vol. 105, m. 16, pp. 256-257 - Ed.
8. Deikman, Arthur, "Bimodal Consciousness," (1971), in The Nature of Human Consciousness, p. 69.
9. Ibid., p. 71.
10. Ibid., p. 81.
11. Cf., Laing, R.D., The Divided Self, (1960), Sanity, Madness and the Family, (1964); Sullivan, H. S. Schizophrenia as a Human Process (1962),
12. Vico, op. cit., para. 814.
13. Schachtel, E. G., "Memory and Childhood Amnesia," in A Study of Interpersonal Relations, edited by Patrick Mullahy, (New York: Hermitage Press, 1949), p. 9.
14. Ibid., pp. 19-20.
15. Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book II, Phaethon's Ride, translated by Horace Gregory, (New York: Mentor Books, 1960), pp. 62-64.
16. Ibid., p. 38.
17. Homer, The Iliad, translated by W. H. D. Rouse, (New York: Mentor Books, 1950). p. 237.
18. Waters, Frank, The Book of the Hopi, (New York, Ballantine Books, 1969), pp. 16-17. (emphasis added)
19. Ibid., p. 20. (emphasis added): see I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, chapter 5.
20. Plato, The Laws, Translated by B. Jowett, (New York: Random House, 1937), Bk. X. para. 889, 909.
21. Plato, The Statesman, translated by B. Jowett, (New York: Random House, 1937), para. 276 (emphasis added)
22. Plato, Timaeus, translated by F. M. Cornford, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1937), 22C, D, p. 15.
23. Ibid., 23C, p. 16.
24. Velikovsky, Immanuel, Worlds in Collision, (Garden City: Doubleday, 1950), P. 300.
25. Demhoff, William, "But Why Did They Sit on the King's Right in the First Place?" In The Nature of Human Consciousness, p. 143,
26. Ornstein, R., op. cit., p. 59.
27. Freud, S., The Ego and the Id, translated by Joan Riviere, (London: Hogarth Press, 1950), p. 30.
28. Alfred de Grazia explores the implications of these experiences for the subsequent life of man in his work on the palaetiology of human fear which formed the basis of an address entitled "Palaetiology of Human Fears" at the Velikovsky Symposium on Cultural Amnesia, held at the University of Lethbridge, May 1974.
29. Shah, Idries, The Sufis, (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1964).
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