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Open letter to science editors


Milton Zysman


"Of all the mysterious phenomena which accompanied the Exodus, this mysterious
pillar seems the first to demand explanation."

Velikovsky came to his catastrophic thesis through a search for a reliable
chronology for ancient middle eastern history. This search, born of the
realization that both Egyptians and Israelites alike went through a great
physical upheaval, gave rise to the most influential work on catastrophism
published in this century.

Hebrew traditions of the red and poisonous Nile, the impenetrable darkness,
the hot stones from heaven, the great winds and noise, the anomalous
behaviour of insects and animals and the tidal effect at the Sea of Passage
were collected and matched to other worldwide ancient traditions, convincing
Velikovsky that the Exodus event was part of a global upheaval caused in
great part by the passage of the Earth through the tail of a giant

Velikovsky drew this original inspiration not from Exodus, but from an event
that occurred, according to Biblical sources, 52 years later in the time of
Joshua. On that great day, when the sun did not hasten to go down,
Velikovsky remembered the shower of hot stones which killed more of Joshua's
enemies than did the battling Israelites.

Velikovsky realized that these scientifically naive people could not have
deliberately coupled a large scale meteoric shower with a disturbance in the
Earth's diurnal rotation. Since meteoric showers, great and .small, are
understood to be debris entrained by comets, Velikovsky took the next logical
step by gleaning the Bible and associated Talmudic sources for evidence of a
comet during Exodus and Joshua.

It was then that the "mysterious pillar" became the tail of the protoplanet
Venus. Velikovsky claimed: "Because of the proximity of the Earth, the comet
left its own orbit and for a while followed the orbit of the Earth. The
great ball of the comet retreated, then again approached the Earth, shrouded
in a dark column of gases which looked like a pillar of smoke during the day
and of fire by night and the Earth once more passed through the atmosphere of
the comet, this time at its neck."

It has been for some time this author's opinion that this "mysterious pillar"
is not a comet's tail, but the Earth's north and south magnetic poles
illuminated by the joint action of electrical discharge and the commingling of
Earthly and cometary gases. In other words, a giant aurora.

In this paper I will argue that the early reports from the Jupiter/Comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 event can cast further light on the aurora thesis and bring
us closer to understanding the full significance of Velikovsky's catastrophic

Comet of Typhon

It may have evaded the scrutiny of even the most assiduous Velikovskians that
there is very little direct evidence for the appearance of a comet during
both the Exodus and the Joshua stories. All the indicators of a great
meteoric shower are in place and it can be argued that any well-informed
tribal leader or court magician would have little trouble inferring its
involvement, yet we have no specific mention of a comet being observed before
or during the event. Great signs were in abundance in the heavens- in
particular the enigmatic arm of the Lord mentioned many times in Exodus and
other rabbinical sources. Little, however, in the way of a glowing body with
a tail is mentioned.

It is no wonder then that Velikovsky calls on the "mysterious pillar" for
help. Yet it is not Exodus he turns to in reconstructing the days of Exodus
and Joshua, but to the great Greek tradition of the fight between Zeus and
Typhon. Velikovsky inserted this account of a central god throwing
thunderbolts and great balls of fire at an encircling deity as an explanation
of how a comet loses and regains its tail:

"Some saw the pillar of cloud- Typhon defeated by Jupiter, the ball of fire
that emerged from the pillar and battled with it. Others interpreted the
globe as a body different from Jupiter ... the imagination of the people saw
in this the planet-god Jupiter-Marduk rushing to save the Earth by killing the
serpent-monster Typhon/Tiamat."

I will not dwell on the physical adequacy of this imported image, for it
contains intrinsic difficulties. The greater problem is that, inadequate as
this exotic image is, it is not described in similar terms either in Exodus or
Joshua. It is always, in Hebrew traditions, a singular body. Its only
variant is the crooked or brazen serpent. Moreover, Velikovsky does not
deal adequately with the remarkably stable nature of the pillar. Neither the
atmospheric nor the orbital elements of a comet's tail could have retained the
definite shape of a column for any length of time, yet-this same column was
reported to have shed light on the wandering tribes for over 40 years.

The Great Aurora

Velikovsky's decision to identify the "mysterious pillar" as the tail of Venus
effectively foreclosed his further access to one of the most powerful ancient
icons, for the pillar of light and smoke can be none other than the northern
extension of the world axis or Axis Mundi.

The primal universe pictured the world axis with its principal pillar to the
north- the less important southern element appearing to pass through the disc
or sphere of the Earth and extend into the underworld.

Hebrew tradition, like most major cultures, gives us many static and dynamic
variations of the pillar of smoke and fire. In Genesis it is the trunk of
the trees of life and knowledge. In the post-Exodus period, the wooden
pillar, emblematic of the Hebrew goddess, was offered human sacrifices "in
high places." So important was this idol that it replaced the ark of the
covenant in the temple on a number of occasions.

Velikovsky would have found it difficult to miss this icon in his research.
An author he referred to, Holmberg, devoted an entire chapter to the pillar
in his work on Siberian myth. Plato would not have confused the battle of
Zeus and Typhon as relating to a pillar of light. He acknowledged this symbol
as the highway for the souls of the dead to reach heaven.

Our Neon World

In other published works, I have argued that an enhanced aurora at the north
and south poles is an inevitable outcome of encounters with great meteoric
showers. Present auroral displays, sometimes called the Northern Lights, are
the product of periodic solar flares which cause temporary charge imbalances
in the Earth's magnetic field. When these entrapped charges reach a critical
point, they rush from the trailing end of the tear shaped geomagnetic belt
and cascade down the north and south magnetic poles in a spiral pattern.
These charged particles become visible as they collide with rising atoms of
oxygen and nitrogen, producing a distinctive belt of glowing gases in the
Earth's upper atmosphere.

The great pillar aurora is most easily understood as an upward extension of
the present auroral oval and its interior polar cap.

The great pillar of the Exodus would be initiated by a discharge from the
Earth's field to the impinging ionized cometary debris. This" short circuit
would cause the temporary reduction of the Earth's magnetic field, subjecting
the Earth to greater penetration of the solar wind. The Earth would also lose
some charge from its interior, depending on the relative ionization of the
impinging debris. These two conditions would lead to overcharging of the
Earth's geomagnetic field, powering great auroras until the Earth regains its
electrical equilibrium.

Auroral Icons

The full range of iconography provided by the great auroras of the past could
fill many volumes, and is dealt with in greater detail in Catastrophism 2000.
The essential direct image presented to our ancestors was that of a fluted
cylinder composed of the Earth's overcharged field lines, projecting upwards
thousands of kilometres, and made visible at night by rising glowing green
and red gases ionized by the electrons passing through them, and by day by
the iron-bearing dust attracted by the same electromagnetic field lines. This
effect was demonstrated by P Shoemaker-Levy 9's ferrous dust, aligning itself
along Jupiter's north-south field lines shortly after impact.

The Serpents

Charged particles spiraling down and reflected upwards by the ionosphere
sometimes illuminated the rising atomic oxygen and nitrogen into the single
and double helixes which are equally popular in global iconography.

The leather straps (phylacteries) wound around the left arm by pious Jews
prior to prayer, and the serpent encircling the tree of life, are Hebrew
remembrances of the illuminated spiraling electrons.

The idea is also found in the serpent Moses made of brass, which he put upon a
pole. Velikovsky himself stated: "The brazen serpent was most probably the
image of a pillar of cloud and fire which appeared as a moving serpent to all
people of the world."

The Light of Noga

The influence of Venus is never quite absent in Velikovsky's Exodus narrative,
and this quotation from Isaiah is compelling. "The people that walked in
darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow
of death, the light of Noga was upon them."

Velikovsky rightly claims, "It (Noga) is, in fact, the usual name of this
planet in Hebrew, and it is therefore an omission not to translate it so."

This construction can be understood if we acknowledge that the auroral pillar
was one of the effects of passing through the tail of the protoplanet Venus,
a hypothesis that is still compelling today.

Velikovsky's reference to Amos is also convincing. "Amos says that during the
forty years in the wilderness the Israelites did not sacrifice to the Lord,
but carried 'the star of your god, which you made to yourselves.' St. Jerome
interprets this 'star of your god' as Lucifer (the Morning Star.)"

Do We Need The Nucleus ?

In tearing apart the head and tail of the protoplanet Venus, Velikovsky was
probably on the right track. Perhaps if he had further decoupled the nucleus
and its trailing debris, he could have presented a stronger argument for a
major encounter with a comet's tail during the Exodus and Joshua episodes.

It would not shock any scientist today to suggest that the Exodus and Joshua
events were the result of an encounter with a great meteoric shower. The
fact that the comet's nucleus was not sighted during the encounters could be
explained simply by imposing a daytime event. Half of the meteoric showers,
such as the Taurids, are not seen due to sunlight which obscures the classic
radiation of glowing gas and dust that is seen during the nights of great
Leonid and Perseid showers. It has been claimed recently in Icarus that the
Tsunguska event was the product of this shower.

Enter Shoemaker-Levy 9

At this point we may bring Shoemaker-Levy 9 into the equation. One of the
greatest difficulties in Velikovsky's Exodus scenario is the significant time
lapse between catastrophes. Even making allowances for the red world that
preceded the Passover night, there existed six days between the night of the
great flash of light and profound darkness and the events at the Sea of
Passage. Velikovsky's argument that Venus became entangled in the Earth's
orbit, and then returned to display its nucleus-shrouding tail, is not
convincing. As has been stated earlier, there is no direct evidence of the
presence of either the head or the visible tail of a comet, let alone a
viable model or physical theory to explain the exotic motions necessary to
justify this sophisticated cosmic scenario. A train of asteroids captured by
the Earth's gravity a la Shoemaker-Levy 9, which took place over a five-day
period, or an angled passage through a single or multiple train of meteoric
showers, is a simpler and familiar explanation. This in no way excludes
Venus, Mars nor Super Encke from the parental role.

Creating the Great Aurora

Bringing the pillar of smoke and fire into its proper iconographic niche as
the northern extension of the Axis Mundi and explaining it as a visual
product of an encounter with a great meteoric shower, further confirms
Velikovsky's intuitions concerning the essential nature of the Exodus
catastrophes. The great wandering, like the night of July 16, 1994, began
with a great flash of light.

I presume that the dazzling light of the Passover night and the flashes of
Shoemaker-Levy 9 were similar occurrences. The Israelites had good reason to
give only a passing reference to this phenomenon, since they had other things
on their minds, but the Jovian flashes were watched by thousands of human and
electronic eyes from the Earth and sun and Earth-orbiting satellites. What
they observed and recorded of this unique event not only provides compelling
evidence of the super auroral hypothesis, but brings us closer to a clearer
understanding of the nature of comets.

Looking behind Jupiter

We do not yet fully understand what happened behind Jupiter in July. The only
satellite in a position to observe the night side of Jupiter was Galileo,
whose great distance from Jupiter could only provide very grainy images of
the 14 explosions.

But the dust marks left on the planet's atmosphere were approximately the
diameter of the Earth. If the same fragments would have exploded above the
Earth, the effects would most probably have been of a greater scale. Using
Jupiter as a model for Earth must be carefully qualified. Its magnetic field
is immense. Its magnetopause, if visible, would have the apparent diameter of
the moon. The pulse of electromagnetic energy released by its moon Io is 10
to the 18th ergs, enough to toast the city of Portland. On the other side of
the coin, a fragment of several kilometres is, in relative mass, less than a
gnat's breath to this planetary giant whose volume is 1,300 times that of the
Earth. Nevertheless, Jupiter did not take the onslaught lightly. Vincent
Caracci, an American amateur radio astronomer, monitored the same band (21.5
Mhz) that produces Jupiter's Io related electrical storms. He characterized
the energy released by the fragments as sounding like a machine gun compared
to the typical ocean surf sound released by Io.

The University of Florida, which has been monitoring Jupiter's radio signals
since their discovery in the early 1950s, did not rule out "lightning"
discharging from Jupiter's field, but the results must have surprised even
those who expected measurable disturbances in Jupiter's field. Before the
plume or ball of fire associated with each impact was observed, a flash
hotter than the sun itself was recorded. What was anomalous and still
unexplained by astronomers was the fact that these flashes were recorded by
observers on both the day and night side of Jupiter.

Galileo, the Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope, and many ground observers
witnessed the flash simultaneously. Another puzzling occurrence was the
absence of reflection from Jupiter's moons and torus. Hopes that light from
the impacts would be mirrored back to Earthbound observers were dashed when no
observable intensity of light was recorded. A simple explanation may lie in
recognizing that the flash occurred in Jupiter's magnetosphere and not on the
planet's surface. The interval of six to eight minutes from flash to the
first sight of the ball of fire gives further support to this thesis.

I would go further and suggest that the explosion of each fragment was caused
by electrical shock. Evidence is being put forth that the fragments were
solid asteroids. If this proves true, it will be helpful to find a mechanism
that explains how a solid body, more than two kilometres in diameter, can
explode well above Jupiter's atmosphere. Finally, can the discharge of fire
from Jupiter's clouds come from the impinging debris, or as part of a general
electrical discharge phenomenon? If the latter process took place, there
ought to be more than one mark on Jupiter's surface.

This suggested electrical mechanism is not critical to prove the super-Aurora
hypothesis. It is presented as further evidence that electrical
interactions, and not physical impacts, are key to understanding comets and
their effects on planetary evolution. In any event the appearance of enhanced
auroras as a direct result of cometary contact is no longer speculative. A
recent news release from the Goddard Space Flight Centre stated: "HST (Hubble
Space Telescope) detected unusual auroral activity in Jupiter's northern
hemisphere just after the impact of the comet's K fragment. This impact
completely disrupted the radiation belts which have been stable over the last
20 years of radio observations."

Moreover, evidence that Jupiter has sustained a continuing charge of greater
intensity is being compiled. Imke DePater of the University of California,
Los Angeles will be publishing, in the new year, data registering a 20 to 30
per cent sustained increase in Jupiter's geo-magnetic field. The mysterious
pillar of Exodus could well have lighted their way through their forty years
of desert wanderings.

More critical to my contention that the mysterious pillar was an auroral
phenomenon was the dynamic effect of the electromagnetic disturbances.
"Aurorae, glowing gases that create the northern and southern lights, are
common on Jupiter because energetic charged particles needed to excite the
gases are always trapped in Jupiter's magnetosphere. However, this new
feature seen by Hubble was unusual because it was temporarily as bright or
brighter than the normal aurora, short-lived, and outside the area where
Jovian aurorae are normally found."

Finding Jupiter's aurora displaced is to be expected since this is normal
operating procedure during auroral storms on Earth which can displace Earthly
aurorae as far south as Mexico City.

A similar movement of the mysterious pillar in Exodus was quoted and
interpreted by Velikovsky in Worlds In Collision. "And the Angel of God,
which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the
pillar of the cloud went from before their face and stood behind them ... and
it was a cloud and darkness but it gave light by night.' An exceedingly
strong wind and lightnings rent the cloud. In the morning the waters rose as
a wall and moved away. 'And the children of Israel went into the midst of the
sea upon the dry ground."

If the lightning which rent the cloud pillar was a discharge between the Earth
and meteoric debris, are we not then dealing with essentially the same
electromagnetic phenomena witnessed on and around Jupiter?

The aurora created by the flash on the first night of Passover- the same
aurora that the children of Israel followed on northward passage- may have
moved due to a permanent displacement of the Earth's terrestrial axis, as
Velikovsky claimed, or by the more temporary movement witnessed some months
ago on Jupiter. Either explanation is easier to maintain than Velikovsky's
elaborate detached comet tail model.


Intensive aurorae and increased radiation from Jupiter's geomagnetic field
would not be a total surprise to professional Jupiter watchers. The enormous
energies pulsed to Io could just as easily be short-circuited, in retrospect,
to highly ionized comet fragments. What is of more significance is that
Jupiter/Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 has struck a fatal blow to Whipple's
characterization of a comet as a dirty snowball. A close scrutiny of
fragments entering Jupiter's magnetopause and a similar study of ejecta
revealed little or no evidence of water. The fragments were found to contain
magnesium, a common component of asteroids and dust. If Jupiter were hit by
a series of solid bodies, what caused them to explode above Jupiter's
atmosphere? And more importantly, what forces created the clouds dust that
obscured each nucleus? Present models of comets as conglomerations of ice
and volatiles were conjured up to explain this phenomenon- the "shedding" of
cometary matter at distances well beyond any heat contribution from the sun.
If comet shedding proves to be a product of electromagnetic forces, it will
introduce a new dimension in our understanding of the way our universe


W. Phythian-Adams, The Call of Israel, in Worlds In Collision, Immanuel
Velikovsky (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1950), p. 81.
Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds In Collision (Garden City: Doubleday & Company),
Velikovsky, op. cit., pp. 173-174.
Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 184.
Louis Ginzberg, The Legends Of The Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication
Society Of America), Volume II, p. 375.
Milton Zysman, "Let There Be Lights," in Catastrophism 2000, ed. Milton
Zysman and Clark Whelton (Toronto: Heretic Press, 1990), pp. 143-198.
Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, International Astronomical Union,
Circular No. 6036.
Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 184.
Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 175.
Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 175.
Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 176.
Jack B. Hartung, "Giordano Bruno, the June 1975 Meteoroid Storm, Encke, and
Other Taurid Complex Objects," in Icarus 104, pp. 280-290.
Public Information Office, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of
Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Galileo Comet
Shoemaker-Levy Observations, 10/31/94.
Hubble Discoveries 94-161.
Hubble Discoveries 94-161.
Velikovsky, op. cit., pp. 85-86.

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