Catastrophism today is the name given to a school of thought that supports the idea that the history of the Earth has been punctuated by natural events such as floods, fires and asteroid strikes that have caused widespread if not global devastation and that some of these events occurred within the memory of man and are recorded in worldwide mythologies.
“Gradualists explained geological features as the result of slowly acting processes such as erosion, while catastrophists argued that Earth had been shaped mainly by a series of violent events or catastrophes, whether over a relatively short time (6,000 to 10,000 years) or over many millions of years. In the early nineteenth century, gradualism seemed to win out completely over catastrophism, but in the late twentieth century scientists discovered that catastrophic events have also played a major role in Earth’s history.” (p)
Britannica defines catastrophism, as a “doctrine that explains the differences in fossil forms encountered in successive stratigraphic levels as being the product of repeated cataclysmic occurrences and repeated new creations. This doctrine generally is associated with the great French naturalist Baron Georges Cuvier (1769–1832). One 20th-century expansion on Cuvier’s views, in effect, a neocatastrophic school, attempts to explain geologic history as a sequence of rhythms or pulsations of mountain building, transgression and regression of the seas, and evolution and extinction of living organisms.”(q)
Worryingly, it is now more generally accepted that further catastrophes will occur as a result of future cometary/asteroidal strikes. Nigel Cawthorne has decided to cheer us up with his book, Doomsday , which lists 50 possible global catastrophes on the future horizon!
One such close encounter, around 2800 BC, was considered by the Christian catastrophist, Donald W. Patten, to have generated the Deluge of Noah(j) and was the source of the flood legends found around the world! Patten nominates Mars as the intruder(l), an idea also advocated by Elsar Orkan, who, however, proposes a date of around 8000 BC for this encounter.
Some readers may think that the subject has no direct connection with Plato’s Atlantis, however, his text refers to a number of catastrophic events that clearly brought devastation to Athens, Atlantis and beyond. The Flood of Deucalion and earlier inundations, Phaeton and other cosmic encounters, plus conflagrations and earthquakes all point to periods of great instability in the early prehistory of the Aegean region and quite probably much further afield.
Jürgen Spanuth devotes chapter 4 of his Atlantis of the North to an examination of “the natural catastrophes of the 13th century BC” that deals with Phaeton and the blizzard of floods, earthquakes and eruptions that beset the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the 2nd millennium BC. Some of these matters have been recently expanded upon by Nur & Cline(f)(g) and endorsed by Stavros Papamarinopoulos[0750.73].
August 2013 saw studies published(h) that pointed the finger at climate change as the cause of the widespread political instability in that region during the second millennium BC.
Claude Schaeffer, a celebrated French archaeologist, declared in 1948 that on at least five occasions during the Bronze Age the Middle East had been subjected to widespread catastrophic destruction as a result of natural events rather than human activity.
Immanuel Velikovsky is arguably the best known of the 20th-century catastrophists, who published two books in the 1950’s that provoked widespread controversy that continues today. There is an interesting albeit sceptical review of catastrophism in the last century by Patrick Moore & Bob Forrest in Chapter 14 of More Things in Heaven and Earth(k).
Paul Dunbavin, the author of Towers of Atlantis , has published a paper(n), highly critical of Velikovsky’s work. Dunbavin has researched the evidence for a number of pole shifts that are not dependent on what he describes as the “naïve astronomy” of Velikovsky.
In 1964, the Belgian mathematician René Gallant (1908-1985)(image left) published Bombarded Earth which dealt in great detail with the consequences of meteorite impacts on the earth. Gallant, perhaps because of his amateur status as a geologist, never received the attention he deserved.
More recently Allan & Delair produced another book that identified 9500 BC as the date of a global catastrophe following an encounter with a comet. Their conclusions are at variance with Velikovsky’s, particularly regarding dates. Professor Mike Baillie of Queens University, Belfast is a well-known dendrochronologist who has recently entered the debate with his book, Exodus to Arthur which adds evidence from his discipline to support the theory of cometary or asteroidal impacts with the Earth. Unfortunately, his work is confined to the last 4,500 years and so casts no further light on the 9,500 BC date apart from offering support for the possibility of extraterrestrial impacts.
However, Richard Firestone and his co-authors have researched an impact ‘Event’ that occurred 13,000 years ago and caused devastation in North America including the creation of the hundreds of thousands of Carolina Bays and some of the outbursts of Lake Missoula. Like Baillie, they claim that a memory of this event has been preserved in the folktales of many North-American Indians. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the latest developments in catastrophist research.
The destruction of Atlantis has been linked to a number of possible catastrophic events including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and asteroid strikes. Plato’s account cites a flood as the immediate cause of the disappearance of Atlantis. In the 18th century, Giovanni Carli was probably the first to link a cometary encounter with the Earth as the cause of Atlantis’ demise. This idea has been supported by numerous writers ever since, with Emilio Spedicato being one of its leading exponents today.
There are numerous sites on the Internet relating to catastrophism of which one(a) can be recommended as a good starting point for further study. Andy Blackard has listed(b) events connected with global upheavals around 3200 and 2000 BC. An Australian archaeologist, Peter Jupp, is the creator of the Ancient Destructions website(e) which deals with a number of historical mysteries including, Baalbek and Antarctica.
A more recent book by Robert Argod postulates that many of these historical catastrophes were caused by an irregular series of accelerated tectonic movements, although he does not offer a credible mechanism to explain the triggering of such upheavals. Is it possible that the strikes by or near misses with extraterrestrial objects, proposed by so many, generated the tectonic shifts proposed by Argod?
Professor Trevor Palmer has written a comprehensive history of catastrophes and catastrophism from the earliest times and its relevance today. His Perilous Planet Earth includes a couple of chapters in which he reviews Atlantis theories in the context of catastrophism.
Dr Michel-Alain Combes has a PhD in astronomy from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI). He has an extensive website(i) dealing with catastrophism, which translates quite well.
2012 was been promoted as the date of the next worldwide catastrophe based on a highly questionable interpretation of the Mayan calendar. New Age gurus were promising a change in global consciousness, whatever that means. If interested. you can read more of this nonsense online(c) or consider a more balanced view(d).
A huge catastrophist bibliography (2010) is available online(m) with a 2020 update now available(o).
(i) http://www.astrosurf.com/macombes/index.html (French)
Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) was born in what is now Belarus. He was by profession a doctor of medicine, specialising in psychiatry. However, his fame is based on being arguably the most controversial catastrophist of the 20th century. He daringly proposed that the Earth had several close encounters with other planetary bodies that resulted in catastrophic consequences, including interference with the rotation of our planet. He speculated that Atlantis was probably destroyed during one of these cataclysmic events.
John Kettler is an American writer on alternative science and was a frequent contributor to Atlantis Rising magazine. In issue #30(z) of that publication, he reviewed the disgusting manner in which members of the scientific community endeavoured to prevent the publication of Velikovsky’s books. In order to give you the full flavour of the nastiness of their methods, I add three paragraphs here.
“The scientific and academic reaction to the book (Worlds in Collision) was generally presaged by the extortion practised prior to and after publication against the Macmillan Company. As the book began to garner public and in some circles, even scientific interest and acclaim, all pretence of genteel discussion went by the boards. Out came the mailed fists, the naked threats and oceans of mud and offal. The attacks targeted three main groups: the public, the scientific and academic community, and Immanuel Velikovsky himself. Nor were such niceties as actually reading the book before denouncing it and its author employed.
Even before the Macmillan Company published the book, renowned astronomer Harlow Shapley arranged multiple intellectual well poisonings by an astronomer, a geologist, and an archaeologist, not one of whom had read the book, in a learned journal. This was a pattern used over and over again.
Shapley and his minions also engineered the sacking of the veteran senior editor (25 years at the Macmillan Company) who accepted Worlds in Collision for publication and got the director of the famous Hayden Planetarium fired for the high crime of proposing to mount a display there, on Velikovsky’s unique cosmological theory. Meanwhile, Velikovsky was systematically attacked in the scientific journals, via distortion, lies, misrepresentation, incompetence and ad hominem attacks, while there never seemed to be space in which he could reply, in order to defend himself.” J. Douglas Kenyon included Kettler’s revealing essay in Forbidden History [802.53].
Some have seen the influence of Ignatius Donnelly’s Ragnarok, written seventy years earlier, in Velikovsky’s cosmic collision theories. Some commentators have noted how Velikovsky seemed reluctant to credit earlier writers, such as W. C. Beaumont and Johann Radlof (1775-1846)(b), with their contributions to the development of the theory of planetary catastrophism. Rens Van Der Sluijs has written an interesting two-part paper(d)(e) listing the catastrophists who preceded Velikovsky demonstrating a certain lack of originality on his part! Others take a more critical view of his ideas(g). In 1950, he responded to this criticism with a defensive piece(n), but I consider it inadequate as he continued to ignore the work of Radlof and Beaumont. Some years ago Ev Cochrane and Phil ‘Pib’ Burns also discussed Velikovsky’s reluctance to credit earlier writers for ideas used by him, compared with the recognition given by Clube & Napier to the work of Velikovsky(x).
Van Der Sluijs has written a two-part(k)(l) article on Velikovsky’s radical views regarding Venus as a comet-like body and how Aztec sources support some of his contentions.
Carl Sagan (1934-1996), was a well-known American astronomer, author and lecturer. He is considered a leading debunker of Velikovsky’s theories. He devoted much of his Broca’s Brain  to this end. Charles Ginenthal (1934-2017) produced an extensive rebuttal of Sagan’s criticisms in Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovsky . However, criticism of Velikovsky continues with varying degrees of ferocity, such as that of Leroy Ellenberger, a former supporter of Velikovsky, who contends that the data from the Greenland ice cores fail to support Velikovsky(s).
Velikovsky and Einstein were acquaintances and as Nathaniel Lloyd wrote in his three-part blog on chronological revisionism(y) that when Velikovsky “asked Einstein to read his work and give an opinion. Einstein suggested that Velikovsky might have a hard time finding a publisher, specifically because “every sensible physicist” would realize that the catastrophes Velikovsky described would have completely destroyed the Earth’s crust. Nevertheless, Einstein was kind about his criticism, and Velikovsky was undeterred. But years later, in Einstein’s very last interview, his opinion was less delicate: ‘It really isn’t a bad book,’ he said, laughing. ‘The only trouble with it is, it is crazy’.”
Velikovsky was initially inclined to link the disappearance of Atlantis with the eruption of Thera but later came to support a location between the Azores and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge(i). He was an early questioner of Plato’s figure of 9,000 years for the age of Atlantis, suggesting that it was exaggerated by a factor of ten[0037.152]. ”Whatever the source of the error, the most probable date of the sinking of Atlantis would be in the middle of the second millennium, 900 years before Solon when the earth twice suffered great catastrophes as a result of ‘the shifting of the heavenly bodies.’ These words of Plato received the least attention, though they deserved the greatest.”
Velikovsky offered intriguing evidence that on at least one occasion the early Egyptians experienced the sun rising in the west and set in the east(q)!
His other major contribution was in his questioning of the accepted Bronze Age chronologies of the eastern Mediterranean. Later writers, such as David Rohl and Peter James have built on his chronology work, while Gary Gilligan has added support for Velikovsky’s planetary theories as well. Others have accused Velikovsky of being over-dependent on his belief in the inerrancy of biblical chronology.
In a recent (2023) paper(ac). on the Academia.edu website, Donald Keith Mills was highly critical of Velikovsky’s research on the Hyksos and Amalakites in Ages in Chaos. Mills had earlier written critically of Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision(ab).
“In Ages in Chaos, Velikovsky made numerous detailed claims which he supported by footnote references to his sources. Those sources were of two kinds: those that would be easily available to most of his readers, such as the Bible and the works of Josephus; and those that would be difficult or impossible for most readers to access, including technical journals and the works of medieval Arabian, Persian, and Egyptian writers.
“Access to such materials began to change in the late 20th Century, and I have been able to download almost all of Velikovsky’s “Arabic” sources from the Internet Archive Digital Library (https://archive.org/ ), together with some he didn’t explicitly use. Those original sources, in the same editions as he cited, revealed that his uses of allusions, references, and quotations often failed to agree with what the sources actually said.”
“Repeatedly, when faced with conflicting accounts of pre-Islamic (and essentially prehistoric) events, Velikovsky selected only those that met his purposes. The damaging aspect of this criticism is the fact that, almost without exception, he did so without discussing the alternatives, without providing reasons for rejecting them, and without even acknowledging their existence.“
One website(a)provides us with a considerable amount of Velikovsky’s unpublished work, while another offers an encyclopedia of his work(c). A more general German site(f), in English, is also worth a visit.
The three of Velikovsky’s most popular books as well as some of his lesser-known papers are available as pdf files(j)(m).
Jan Sammer was an assistant to Velikovsky (1976-1978) and an archivist and editor for the Velikovsky Estate (1980-1983). He advises us that he was involved in the completion of Velikovsky’s unpublished book, In the Beginning(h), which was eventually published in 2020 . The book’s contents were originally intended to be part of Worlds in Collision. In it, you will find more details of Velikovsky’s claim that within the memory of man, there was a time when we had no Moon, which he claimed was subsequently ‘captured’ by the Earth. He wrote a short paper in 1973 entitled Earth without a Moon and published by the editors of Pensée in Velikovsky Reconsidered [1877.86], but without any reference to Hanns Hörbiger.
According to Velikovsky, Venus was a relatively recent newcomer to our Solar System and the orbit of Mars had been disturbed, which would suggest that before the arrival of Venus, Bode’s Law would have been invalidated! C.J. Ransom tackled this head-on in The Age of Velikovsky [1880.90]. However, his defence of Bode and Velikovsky was rejected by Dr M. M. Nieto(t).
In 2012, Laird Scranton, published The Velikovsky Heresies, in which he reviews Velikovsky’s controversial theories in the light of scientific discoveries since his death. Not unexpectedly, Scranton does find evidence that supports some of Velikovsky’s contentions.
Ralph E. Juergens, an American engineer, supported Velikovsky with the idea that electromagnetic and electrostatic forces and not conventional celestial mechanics alone were responsible for the cosmic encounters witnessed and recorded by our ancestors(u).
In the late 1990s Sean Mewhinney (1944-2016), a Canadian researcher published a series of papers(w) that was highly critical of Velikovsky’s theories. Much of his criticism was focused on ice-core data. Once again, Charles Ginenthal took up the challenge, responding with an extensive paper entitled Minds in Denial, later the title of an ebook  that include the original paper. Ginenthal also published a book on the Electro-Gravitic Theory of Celestial Motion and Cosmology and its possible application to Velikovsky’s theories(v).
In 2021, Bob Forrest(aa), a British retired mathematics teacher had re-published a book of over 700 pages entitled Velikovsky’s Sources, which deals with Worlds in Collision. It had been originally issued as a series of seven booklets between 1981 and 1985. These have now been combined in one volume and edited by Donald Keith Mills and available on the Academia.edu website(ab). The content is a critique of Velikovsky’s work and now forty years later Forrest still believes “that Velikovsky was spectacularly wrong.”
Some readers may wish to see a video by Wallace Thornhill, of Electric Universe fame, in which he discusses Velikovsky’s Astrophysics(o). There are several related papers and books, including some Velikovskian material, freely available online(p).
>We are also fortunate to have a biography of Velikovsky’s eventful life published in 2010 by his daughter, Ruth Velikovsky Sharon .<
(z) Atlantis Rising magazine #30 http://pdfarchive.info/index.php?pages/At