In A Nutshell
Immanuel Velikovsky was a Russian author and psychiatrist whose major works involve reconciling most of the world’s creation myths into one single explanation. That explanation largely involves the idea that Venus was not originally a planet, but a comet that was broken off of Jupiter. It then reflected off Earth a couple times during the ancient and Biblical era, causing many of the events we think of today as largely mythology. Eventually, Venus settled into the orbit we know today.
The Whole Bushel
There isn’t much that will get the established scientific community in an uproar quite like an author who successfully blurs the lines between mythology and science fiction with fact, and then has the audacity to have his claims published not just by a well-known publishing company, but one that specializes in scientific textbooks. And that’s just what Russian writer Immanuel Velikovsky did. First, his theories.
They’re generally thought of by the regular scientific community not so much as an interpretation of the facts, but as a re-imagining of them. He starts not with accepted scientific fact but with the world’s creation myths, and develops his own theories on how these myths entwine to make up what really happened in Earth’s history.
Key to these theories is the idea that Venus was not originally a planet, but a comet that broke off from Jupiter. (This is equated to the Greek myths of Zeus’s daughter springing fully formed from his head. In the myths, that wasn’t Venus’s counterpart Aphrodite, but Athena. It’s a discrepancy that’s never addressed: He just writes as though it was Athena.)
From there, the comet Venus ricocheted across the solar system, causing all sorts of havoc that’s reflected in many of the myths that have been handed down throughout the centuries. A close call with Earth caused the events in the Bible, described as Exodus. Another close call with Earth brought the plagues described in many mythologies; insects and other small organisms can survive in the most inhospitable of environments, and it’s that survival ability that allowed them to leave Jupiter on the back of Venus and survive the journey through space, to be introduced to Earth as plague and infestation.
He wrote that Venus eventually traveled too close to Mars, where the comet lost its tail and was redirected into the regular orbit we see it in now.
The amount of detail and the number of both myths and historical events that he reevaluates to fit into his theory is astounding. The Olympic games, founded by Ares (Mars) and in honor of Athena (his Venus), was clearly a reference to Mars’s redirection of the comet Venus. The celestial events depicted in The Iliad, lighting up the sky as the gods fought over Troy, were actually seen by humans as the solar system was still in a state of sorting itself out. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah came when a supercharged Jupiter got too close to the Earth.
Even changes in the Earth’s surface, Velikovsky explains away with this theories. The Biblical Deluge, the increase in not only the amount of water on the planet but also an increase in the salinity – it came from Saturn, of course, when the Earth was bombarded with extraterrestrial material. The instability of gravity and the state of our largest planets caused Saturn to lose a good amount of materials, introducing chlorine, salt, and hydrogen in massive amounts to the Earth’s surface.
These events had, he said, not been properly documented before him because of a collective amnesia that the world had always suffered from.
Over the course of his books, Velikovsky touches on creation myths from around the world, from Mexico to Greece to the Bible. His work resulted in a somewhat weird reaction. The literary world largely praised him for his genius, elevating him to a position alongside many of the day’s great writers and thinkers. The scientific community largely ignored his work, and those that did read it—like Stephen Jay Gould—referred to him as no less than a scientific heretic who at least had the decency to be massively successful in just how wrong he was.
Interestingly, his work was originally published by the textbook giant Macmillan, but because of an uproar in the scientific community saying that his work shouldn’t be published alongside “real” science, the publisher dropped him.
Show Me The Proof
Encyclopaedia Britannica: Immanuel Velikovsky
The Skeptic’s Dictionary: Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision
VArchive.org: The Immanuel Velikovsky Archive
Stephen Jay Gould, Velikovsky in Collision