Thursday, April 12, 2012

Distancing Oneself from Velikovsky

In answer to a reader's comment on Velikovsky:

.... I think [Velikovsky] is appreciated because he thought of the idea of re-jigging the Egyptian chronology but seems to be rather crazy overall. Sounds as though these fellows are wise to distance themselves from him. ....

I wrote:

Distancing Oneself

from Velikovsky

 Damien F. Mackey


…. the point of this little article is that revisionists, even if now they have adopted quite a different system, owe their beginning to Immanuel Velikovsky. For whatever reason, God allowed him, and him only, a man who may not even have believed in God, to be the one to determine that 18th dynasty Egyptian history needed to be brought down the time scale by a multiplicity of centuries.


Let us get one thing very clear. The revision of ancient history as pursued by groups such as the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (UK) and Catastrophism and Ancient History (Los Angeles, CA), and now by many other individuals and groups using various forms of social media, would never have seen the light of day but for the efforts of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, a Russian Jew. Even Dr. Courville’s worthy early effort, The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, I & II (Loma Linda Ca, 1971), though largely an original contribution, based itself on Velikovsky’s important 500-year shift of the 18th Egyptian dynasty to the time of the kingdom of Israel (Saul, David and Solomon).

Here I am interested only in Velikovsky’s historical revision, not his scientific interpretations, which involve some dramatic planetary catastrophism supposedly affecting the biblical Exodus and the destruction of Sennacherib’s Assyrian army of 185,000. These, which I do not personally favour, make for some terrific reading, nevertheless, and would be exciting movie viewing.

Whilst some still follow Velikovsky slavishly, both his history and his science, it was the UK branch, including some very talented individuals, who, as early as the late 70’s, tended to watch critically his historical outputs, finally rebelling outright - as well they should, I think - when confronted with his location of the 19th Egyptian (Ramesside) dynasty: Ramses II and His Time and Peoples of the Sea.

But it needs to be noted that, until that time, the UK revisionists were ‘Velikovskian’ in their acceptance of the important 500-year downward shift of Egyptian history, with the talented ‘Glasgow School’ slightly modifying Velikovsky (as we shall read) and bringing the revision to something of a peak. From that happy moment in time it has generally been a free-fall down the mountain.

So the point of this little article is that revisionists, even if now they have adopted quite a different system, owe their beginning to Immanuel Velikovsky. For whatever reason, God allowed him, and him only, a man who may not even have believed in God, to be the one to determine that 18th dynasty Egyptian history needed to be brought down the time scale by a multiplicity of centuries.

But the UK (in particular) revisionists, aware that Velikovsky was regarded with contempt by the conventional scholars, whose system they themselves were completely undermining - though perhaps also seeking some academic respectability - and aware that Velikovsky’s latter phase revision, e.g. the 19th dynasty of Egypt, was archaeologically untenable (though loyal Velikovskians have clung to it), sought to distance themselves from Velikovsky completely, they hardly at all, or at least very scarcely, even mentioning him in their later books and publications. And when they did mention him, they laughed him off as a “wayward polymath”, or “maverick”. Now, whilst these epithets can be appropriate in the right context, they are mean and miserable when revisionists fail to admit their owing a debt to Velikovsky.

The most arrogant example of this, which is not only unjust to Velikovsky but which demeans all those others who have put a lot of effort into a revision of ancient history - as well as the writings of ‘Creationists’ - was this piece in the flyleaf introducing David Rohl’s The Lost Testament (Century, 2002) as if the revision recognizing the over-extension of chronology by modern researchers had begun with him in 1995 (forgetting Velikovsky’s beginnings in the 1940’s):

The earliest part of the bible is recognised as the foundation-stone of three great religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – yet over the last century archaeologists and historians have signally failed to find any evidence to confirm the events described in the ‘book of books’. As a consequence, many scholars took the view that the Old Testament was little more than a work or fiction. The testimony of biblical history had, in effect, been lost.

Then, in 1995, this scholarly skepticism over the historicity of the Bible was suddenly challenged when Egyptologist and historian, David Rohl, burst onto the scene with a new theory. He suggested that modern researchers had constructed an artificially long chronology for the ancient world - a false time-line which had dislocated the Old Testament events from their real historical setting. The alternative ‘New Chronology’ - first published in A Test of Time: The Bible From Myth to History - created a world-wide sensation and was fiercely resisted by the more conservative elements within academia. Seven years on, however, the chronological reconstruction has developed apace and numerous new discoveries have been made.

Now, in his new book, The Lost Testament, David Rohl reveals the entire story of the Children of Yahweh - set in its true historical context. An astounding number of references in the literature of neighbouring civilizations are shown to synchronise with the Old Testament accounts, confirming events which had previously been dismissed as mythical. In addition, this contemporary literature - combined with the archaeological record - reveals new information and new stories about personalities such as Enoch, Noah, Nimrod, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Sau1, David and Solomon.

The Bible has at last been recovered from the ruins of the ancient past as the ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘who’ are explained - throwing unforeseen and fascinating new light on the world's most treasured book.

[End of quote]

Rohl was one of those more talented and qualified UK revisionists, along with Dr. John Bimson and Peter James, the latter two being an integral part of the ‘Glasgow School’ which included Martin Sieff. Rohl is a brilliant presenter and good writer and his books are sumptuously and colourfully presented. And I strongly recommend his account of Nimrod in Chapter Four of The Lost Testament. And I also recommend, for its work of exposing the conventional chronology and archaeology, but not for its rebuilding efforts, Peter James’s (et al.) Centuries of Darkness, which has become something of a classic. But I personally believe that the so-called ‘New Chronology’ of Rohl, somewhat similar to James’s, which has come to dominate the revision, lying halfway between convention and Velikovsky, fails at virtually every point despite the optimistic advertisements. It is far inferior to Courville’s and Sieff’s respective revisions, with Sieff tending to persevere with the promising ‘Glasgow’ line, but with modifications of his own.

Sieff, in fact, adopted the perfect approach to Velikovsky, by building upon his solid foundations, but also, in the best ‘Glasgow’ fashion, modifying where there were problems, and rejecting outright Velikovsky’s glaring mistakes. He even wrote by far the best account of the psychology of Velikovsky (who was a psychiatrist), the fascinating “Velikovsky and His Heroes” (SIS Review, vol. v, no. 4, 1980/81, pp. 112-120).

I, in my 1993 university thesis,

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah and its Background

once again paid my dues to this amazing and enigmatic scholar, Velikovsky, right at the beginning in my Preface (but in many other places as well).

‘You are the glory of Jerusalem!

You are the great pride of Israel!

You are the highest honour of our race!’

(Judith 15:9)


This thesis, as it stands, would most definitely never have seen the light of day had it not been for my having come across, in the early 1980’s, the revised historical systems of Drs. Immanuel Velikovsky and Donovan Courville (published between the early 1950’s to 1970’s), with their proposed radical lowering of the important 18th Egyptian dynasty by 500 years on the time scale, and their subsequent stratigraphical realignments. After that, the work was continued in the U.S. and Canada with some genuine developments, and certain necessary modifications, by the contributors to Pensée, founded by David Talbott - a journal important for, amongst other things, its scholarly treatment of Sothic dating, including specialized pieces by Velikovsky - and Kronos, edited by Professor Lewis M. Greenberg, and spanning thirteen years (1975-1988), with its highly important contributions towards bringing art history into a proper perspective. The Associate Editor of Kronos, Ev Cochrane, would go on (since 1988) to publish the important journal Aeon, still functioning today, with its relevant publications in history, comparative mythology, and archaeoastronomy; whilst Dwardu Cardona, the founder of the Canadian Society for Interdisciplinary Studies, would become Aeon’s senior editor. The Los Angeles based journal of the later 1970’s and early 1980’s, Catastrophism & Ancient History, edited by Marvin Luckerman, featured some useful and wide-ranging contributions - particularly of an historical nature - from both the U.S. and the U.K.

In the U.K, the Velikovskian-based (initially, at least) revision was championed especially by the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies, particularly by what became known as the ‘Glasgow School’, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, some of whose modifications of Velikovsky I think have been highly impressive.

There have also arisen, in the more recent decades, certain fine individual contributions of a multidisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) nature from members of some of the abovementioned journals and/or schools, who may have decided to branch out on their own and develop their idiosyncratic systems of revision.

Overall, I have endeavoured to take into account what I consider to be the best and most historically plausible contributions of this growing body of scholarship, always with due acknowledgement, and to synthesise these, as far as possible, into a coherent whole: historical, stratigraphical (including art history) and archaeo-astronomical.

Apart from the absolute chronological factor of the Velikovskian (taken up by Courville) downward shift in time of 500 years, as referred to above, there is another more specific aspect of Velikovsky’s revision upon which I shall be most heavily dependent throughout chiefly VOLUME ONE of this thesis, A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah and its Background. I refer to Velikovsky’s identification - one formerly approved and supported by competent revisionists from the ‘Glasgow School’ - of two successive ‘Amorite’ kings in the el-Amarna correspondence (conventionally dated to the C14th BC) with successive ‘Syrian’ (biblical) kings of the C9th BC: namely, Velikovsky’s identification of el-Amarna’s Abdi-ashirta and Aziru, with, respectively, Ben-Hadad [I] and Hazael.


[End of quote]

The bottom line?

Out of a sense of justice - give credit where credit is due.

Easter 2012 (“He is risen!”)

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