The Saturn Problem

Peter James

Delivered at the SIS Silver Jubilee Conference,
Friday 17th - Sunday 19th September 1999

A Synopsis. September 1999

The post-Velikovskian Saturnists have made an important contribution to our understanding of ancient astral mythology by highlighting the curious importance that the planet Saturn had in ancient myth and religion.

Velikovsky posited the interesting idea that a major Saturnian event -- a nova-like explosion -- was witnessed on the Earth, and that watery comets expelled by this event had caused the Great Flood of legend. He also, apparently, dabbled with the idea that Earth had once been, prior to this event, much nearer to Saturn. The Saturnists (beginning with Tresman, but now more conspicuously Talbott, Cardona and Cochrane) have developed this into elaborate models which attempt to explain all world myths in terms of the Earth having once been a satellite of Saturn.

The current Saturnist models run up against a number of problems, in common sense terms. How could the denizens of Earth have survived the separation from Saturn? How could they possibly have tracked and recognised a former sun on its journey to become a tiny star? The MASSIVE upheavals that would have happened during the proposed separation of Earth from Saturn would hardly have provided ideal conditions for observational astronomy. The Saturnists have yet to provide models or explanations for these obvious problems.

From a post-Velikovskian (Clubian) perspective there is another worrying question -- are the theories espoused by the Saturnists actually catastrophist? Apart from vague assertions that the break-up of a hypothetical polar configuration occurred in prehistoric times, they have never presented any dated geological, environmental or archaeological evidence for the effects that such a catastrophe would have had on the Earth. Far from providing a catastrophist model, the Saturnists seem to be increasingly settling into a crypto-uniformitarian position.

Recent research in geology and archaeology, post-Velikovsky, has shown that there were indeed many catastrophic events in recent prehistory. To mention a few:

  • The Allerod conflagration near the end of the Ice Age, as argued by Han Kloosterman, which wiped out the Pleistocene mega-fauna. Though this may be news even to catastrophists, it is almost certain that this brilliant insight will shortly become commonplace in our understanding of the transition to the Holocene.
  • The catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea during the Neolithic, as argued by the geologist/oceanographer team Ryan and Pitman.
  • The massive upheavals and climate change which destroyed the Early Bronze Age civilizations of the Near East (c. 2300 BC conventional dating), Mainstream archaeology has now accepted this event, though it yet has to embrace an exoterrestrial cause, such as the cometary debris model long argued by Mandelkehr.
  • The mini-catastrophe which ended the (Late) Bronze Age with earthquakes and climatic change - discussed by this speaker in Centuries of Darkness (1991) and The Sunken Kingdom (1995), where it was suggested that a Clubian phase of meteorite impact may have been the cause. (Further publication on this research is forthcoming.)

Surely it is recent events like the above, now well documented, which will have shaped the religious beliefs and mythology of mankind which we have inherited. These are the experiences echoed in the sources of the Graeco-Roman period on which the Saturnists rely. The other side of the coin is that the results of genuine catastrophist research - into tangible, datable events - seem to have no place in the Saturnist models, or even be of interest to Saturnist researchers. They rely solely on their readings of ancient myth, all of which is reduced to supposed memories of a polar configuration when the Earth's axis was aligned with Saturn. Despite its supposed importance, the formation and collapse of the polar configuration have not been linked with any events detectable from Earth sciences or archaeology. The Saturnists theories are therefore not only non-catastrophist but reductionist in the extreme.

Far more economical explanations can be found of the importance of the planet Saturn when we realise that the ancient view of the Solar System -- in the time when the texts used by the Saturnists were written -- was a basically astrological one. As it happens, a logical explanation of the role played by Saturn in ancient myth can be found which does not involve extravagant remodelling of the solar system. If simpler explanations can be found, then Occams razor cuts out any need for far-fetched Saturnist models. Further, there is clear evidence from the very Golden Age traditions employed by the Saturnists to show that the Solar System was already in its present configuration.

Most of the ancient traditions describing Saturn can be adequately explained in terms of a normal Solar System, and in the light of ancient astrological thinking. However, there remain elements which seem to suggest a catastrophic event. Velikovsky's original idea, that a catastrophic event on Saturn was visible from the Earth, should be explored further. Fresh thinking needs to be applied to the problem of planetary worship within a Clubian paradigm -comets were surely the main agents of terrestrial catastrophe but we still need to explain how the planets became involved in the ancients fear of the skies as a source of danger.