The Lost Critique

In early 1974, a short-lived, independent journal, CHIRON: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, was founded by Thomas Ferte at Oregon College of Education, Monmouth. The staff included Lew Greenberg as a senior editor and Richard Haines, Fred Jueneman, John V. Myers and Warner Sizemore among the associate editors. This CHIRON is not to be confused with Chiron Newsletter, another periodical published at the time, as Henry Bauer did in Beyond Velikovsky.

Although CHIRON produced only one issue, vol. I, nos. 1 & 2 (which included an announcement for Pensee VII), its contents have been cited and discussed in the Velikovsky literature. Ferte's article "Velikovsky's Frogs..." dealing with Sagan's erroneous allegation at a NASA meeting in Dec. 1973 was quoted by Greenberg in Kronos 3:2 and by Ginenthal in Sagan & Velikovsky. The first issue of Kronos replied to Ian Johnson's letter in CHIRON "Velikovsky's Misuse of Mayan Sources", while the second issue featured an enlarged version of Greenberg & Sizemore's "From Microcosm to Macrocosm...".

However, one article in CHIRON has never been cited or discussed by either Velikovsky or his defenders, including the classicist Bill Mullen. This is James Fitton's "Velikovsky Mythistoricus", which is a devastating indictment of Velikovsky's methodology and, implicitly, of the methodology in Velikovskian studies in general with respect to the analysis of myth. At the time, Fitton was completing his dissertation in Roman History at McMaster Univ. and had a letter published in Pensee. Considering how tenaciously Velikovkians went after certain critics who were easy targets (or appeared to be), such as Profs. William Straka and William Stiebing in Pensee, Carl Sagan, and others, it is striking that no one saw fit to take on James Fitton.

Here are several excerpts from this article:

"It is surprising that, although Dr. Velikovsky's use of myths is one of the most important foundations of his work, it has received almost no attention from the experts. By contrast, the hostility of many members of the scientific community seems almost a healthy reaction. The purpose of this paper, then, is to make some preliminary criticisms of Velikovsky's methodology, and to indicate some approaches to specific issues, particularly in regards to _Worlds in Collision_ (1950)....

"When we come to exact historical material from the myths we find many difficulties. The stories appear in endless variations. Each writer has his own version. sometimes the names are different, sometimes the sequence of events, sometimes the actual events themselves. We are, moreover, at the mercy of the individual authors. One of our earliest sources for Greek myths is Pindar, who considered himself under no obligation to tell the story as he knew it. Like the modern government censor, Pindar defended his right to change any parts of the story he thought objectionable. The earlier, of course, the purer the tradition. Conversely, many later versions of individual myths show considerable embellishment.... These two stories [about the Spartan defense of Thermopylae and the capture and torture of the Roman general Regulus by the Carthaginians], taken from genuine historical events, not mythology, show the influence of ancient rhetoric. Rhetoric was taught at school; it was a part of every educated man's training. The ancient professors had the art of embellishment and elaboration mastered in a way that has no modern parallel. Of this school, which was at its peak during the Roman empire, a typical product was Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the tutor of the Emperor Nero. Seneca's plays abound in every mannerism and conceit imaginable. His version of the legend of Medea concludes with the heroine, having murdered her little children before he husband's eyes, escaping in a chariot drawn by dragons. Should we expect Seneca to preserve an accurate memory of early history? Apparently, for Velikovsky tells us that Seneca had a 'profound knowledge of natural phenomena.'...

"Myths are obviously a very tricky source of historical information. But with proper care and judgment, much of value can be extracted from them. Does Velikovsky show such care and judgment? Unfortunately he often does not. In at least three important ways Velikovsky's use of mythology is unsound. The first of these is his proclivity to treat all myths as having independent value; the second is the tendency to treat only such material as is consistent with his thesis; and the third is his very unsystematic method....

"One of Velikovsky's most brilliant passages is that in which he cites the famous scene in the _Iliad_ where Ares and Athene fight on the battleground before Troy. Athene, says Velikovsky, is the planet Venus, and Ares the planet Mars. Here is an allegory of a great cosmological drama of the eighth century B.C., when, as Velikovsky believes, these two planets nearly collided in space. The myth seems decisive evidence for his beliefs. But, on looking more closely at Homer, we see that this incident is one of several that occurred in a scene where various gods and goddesses were depicted as lining up against each other. In another part of this sequence Athene trounces Artemis, a goddess of the earth; in yet another Apollo, the sun god, contemplates a trial of strength with Poseidon, god of the sea. What great cosmological events are referred to in these lines of Homer? Velikovsky does not say; he does not refer to them....

"... Let me close my paper, however, by examining a cardinal point in Velikovsky's book-- his identification of the Greek goddess Pallas Athene with the planet Venus. All the substantial evidence that Velikovsky draws from the Greek myths vanishes if this identification fails.

"What is Velikovsky's proof?

"He begins by asserting that Pallas Athene was identified with the Babylonian [not Sumerian, contrary to G'thal in S&V] Ishtar. Such a statement is hardly important. After Alexander's conquests the Greeks became aware of the religions of the ancient Near East, and frequently sought points of similarity with their own. Such similarities were often very superfical. Ishtar may have had something in common with Athene, but it would be very surprising if she resembled Athene in every respect. Velikovsky also says, 'Anaitis of the Iranians, too, is identified as Pallas Athene and as the planet Venus.' I checked Velikovsky's reference. The authority says that Anaitis was identified by the Romans with Minerva (Greek Athene) and with Venus (i.e., the goddess Venus, or Aphrodite of the Greeks)[fn. 27: F. Cumont, _Les Mysteres de Mithra_, 3rd ed. (1913), p. 111]. Since Velikovsky is at great pains to point out that the goddess Venus was not the planet of the same name, his statement here is quite misleading. Velikovsky then quotes Plutarch to show that Athene was identified with Isis, and he quotes Pliny to show that Isis was the planet Venus. [However, according to Wolfgang Heimpel in his 1982 paper on Ancient Near Eastern Venus Deities, widely cited by Cochrane, Isis was not associated with planet Venus until Roman times. CLE] It all seems mathematically very correct: Athene equals Isis equals planet Venus. But identifications of this type were common in the Roman empire, a time when Europe was literally flooded with oriental cults. Isis, for example, was identified with the goddess Demeter and with Aphrodite, as well as with Athene. Since identifications varied so much Velikovsky's formula is quite misleading. Moreover, even in the passage cited by Velikovsky, Pliny contradicts him. He says that the planet Venus was identified with Juno (i.e., the Greek Hera). He says nothing about Athene.

"There is, to my knowledge, no evidence that the Greeks ever identified Pallas Athene with the planet Venus. It is in fact interesting to note that, of all the different Greek gods and goddesses associated, at different times, with this planet, the only one missing in one standard discussion is Athene [fn. 29: See Gundel, 'Planeten,' _Pauly-Wissowa_, XX, 2017ff.]. Yet if the great cosmological catastrophes that Velikovsky describes did occur, and if, moreover, they were remembered, as he says, in the world's mythologies, it could hardly be that the Greeks would have entirely forgotten this important identification, which alone provided the clue to the interpretation of those myths."

Why do you think Fitton has been ignored by Velikovsky's supporters?

Fitton's article came to my attention in July 1978 when Greenberg gave me a mutilated copy of Chiron, which I asked him for because of Ferte's article on Sagan and Velikovsky's frogs. When I read Fitton, I was surprised that such a critical article had been ignored when Ian Johnson's letter had been dealt with in the first issue of Kronos. Greenberg wanted to minimize the importance of Fitton as well as my ability as an engineer to judge the validity of Fitton's arguments.

Eventually I rejected Greenberg's assessment and have since strived to circulate Fitton's article. It was available to attendees at the August 1990 "Reconsidering Velikovsky" conference in Toronto. All my spare copies of CHIRON (Ferte had sent me a number of them) were sold anonymously at Portland in Nov. 1994. It was cited in my Skeptic 3:4 article "An Antidote to Velikovskian Studies" and offered to readers. Copies are still available for $1.00 to cover costs.

Leroy Ellenberger, 3929A Utah St., St. Louis, MO 63116 <http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/vdtopten.html> _________________________________________________________