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Immanuel Velikovsky

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Immanuel Velikovsky (June 10, 1895 - 1979).

Table of contents
1 Biography
2 Theories
3 Books by Velikovsky
4 External Links


Born in Vitebsk, Russia. He learned several languages as a child, performed exceptionally well in Russian and mathematics at the Medvednikov Gymnasium after moving to Moscow, and graduated with a gold medal in 1913. He then travelled to Europe, visiting Palestine, briefly studying medicine at Montpellier, France, and taking premedical courses at the University of Edinburgh.

Having returned to Russia before the outbreak of World War I, Velikovsky enrolled in the University of Moscow and received a medical degree in 1921. Then he left Russia for Berlin, where he married Elisheva Kramer, a young violinist. He edited the journal, Scripta Universitatis, for which Albert Einstein prepared the mathematical-physical section.

From 1924 to 1939 Velikovsky lived in Palestine, practicing psychoanalysis - he had studied under Freud's pupil, Wilhelm Stekel in Vienna - and editing Scripta Academica Hierosolymitana. In 1930 he published the first paper to suggest epileptics are characterized by pathological encephalograms, now part of the routine diagnostic procedure. Some of his writings appeared in Freud's Imago.

After reading Freud's Moses and Monotheism, Velikovsky conceived the possibility that Pharaoh Akhnaton, the real hero of Freud's book, was the legendary Oedipus, (a thesis later argued in his book, Oedipus and Akhnaton.) In 1939, Velikovsky took a sabbatical year, traveling with his family to New York only a few weeks before World War II tore Europe apart. For eight months he worked on Oedipus and Akhnaton in the libraries.

In April 1940, Velikovsky was first struck by the idea that a great natural catastrophe had taken place at the time of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt - a time when plagues occurred, the Sea of Passage parted, Mt. Sinai erupted, and the pillar of cloud and fire moved in the sky. Velikovsky wondered: Does any Egyptian record of a similar catastrophe exist? He found the answer in an obscure papyrus stored in Leiden in the Netherlands - the lamentations of an Egyptian sage, Ipuwer. The Ipuwer Papyrus, Velikovsky became convinced, parallels the Book of Exodus, describing the same natural catastrophe, the same plagues. As a result he began to reconstruct ancient Middle Eastern history, taking this catastrophe - which brought the downfall of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom - as a starting point from which to synchronize the histories of Egypt and Israel. He titled his work Ages in Chaos.

The cause of the catastrophe terminating the Middle Kingdom remained unexplained. One afternoon in October, 1940, Velikovsky noticed an important fact: the Book of Joshua describes a destructive shower of meteorites occurring before the sun "stood still," in the sky. Could this be a coincidence, or were the ancients recording a cosmic disturbance that must have shaken the entire Earth and might have been related to the upheavals approximately 50 years earlier during the Exodus? A survey of other sources around the world convinced Velikovsky that a global cataclysm had indeed overtaken the Earth, and that Venus played a decisive role in that cataclysm. For ten years he researched and wrote Ages in Chaos and Worlds in Collision. He had by now taken up permanent residence in the United States.

In 1950, after more than a dozen publishing houses rejected the two manuscripts, Macmillan published Worlds in Collision. Even before its appearance, the book was enveloped by furious controversy. Macmillan, intimidated by threats from academicians and scientists - the people who write and buy its textbooks - transferred the book to Doubleday. Worlds in Collision was then the number one best seller in the nation. In 1952 Doubleday published the first volume of Ages in Chaos, which details Velikovsky's historical reconstruction from ca. 1450 B.C. to 840 B.C. (A sequel, extending the reconstruction to 33 B.C. was originally due to appear shortly after the initial volume but was re-worked and enlarged to two volumes, Rameses II and His Time and Peoples of the Sea.)

Earth in Upheaval, presenting geological and paleontological evidence supposed to buttress "Worlds in Collision" (and also offering a new understanding of evolution that conflicts with Darwinian theory), came off the press in 1955; in 1960, Oedipus and Akhnaton was published. Velikovsky also prepared an unpublished volume dealing with collective amnesia] that hypothesized the mechanism of repression applied on a collective, cultural scale.

For nearly a decade prior to the early Sixties, Velikovsky was persona non grata on college and university campuses. After early space probes sent to Venus, Mars and Jupiter confirmed some of his predictions (most specifically that Venus would be hot - although critics argue that at least as many predictions turned out to be far from correct), he began to receive more requests to speak than he could honor. He lectured, frequently to record crowds, at Brown University, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Oberlin, Carnegie Institute, Rice, and many other universities. In February, 1972, he addressed a large audience at Harvard, hosted by the Society of Harvard Engineers and Scientists; in March he lectured at the State University of New York (Buffalo), and spoke at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario). He has been the Honors Convocation Speaker at Washington University (St. Louis) and St. Olaf College. In February, 1972, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a one-hour television special featuring Velikovsky and his work and this was followed by a 30 minute documentary on the BBC in 1973.


In his book Worlds in Collision (1950) Velikovsky proposes that many myths and traditions of ancient peoples and cultures are based on actual events: worldwide global catastrophes of a celestial origin, which had a profound effect on the lives, beliefs and writings of early mankind. In brief, around the 15th century B.C., a comet (now called the planet Venus) coming from Jupiter, passed near Earth, changing its orbit and axis and causing innumerable catastrophes, mentioned in early mythologies and religions around the world. Fifty-two years later, it passed close by again, stopping the Earth's rotation for a while, thus causing more catastrophes. Then, in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., Venus and Mars almost collided near the Earth; this incident caused a new round of disturbances and disasters on Earth. After that, the current "celestial order" was established--and who knows for how long!

In 1956 Velikovsky wrote Earth in Upheaval, intended to present conclusive geological evidence of terrestrial catastrophism.

Many scientists and historians have criticised Velikovsky's works over the years. His main evidence for his theories consists of interpretations of ancient myths, from which he concludes catastrophic events in the past. Most scientists refuse to give credence to these theories, because they go against established planetology and physics, there is little or no physical evidence of it, and Velikovsky's usage of material for proof is often very selective. His theories are also not consistent with current theories about the actual basis of mythologies.

Books by Velikovsky

External Links