A Personal History of Attempts to Establish and Resist Theories of Quantavolution and Catastrophes in the Natural and Human Sciences, 1963 to 1983
|"Cosmic Heretics offers a stimulating first-hand account of the inner circle of Immanuel Velikovsky, an important point of view for anyone interested in the life of the author of Worlds in Collision."|
|Prof. Michael D. Gordin, Princeton University (History of Science) |
|Published January 2013 - 414 pages; 6"x9"; ISBN: 978-1-60377-084-2 LCCN: 2012921083 - Metron Publications, Princeton, NJ, USA.|
Chapter One - Royal Incest
|Alfred de Grazia was entering his forty-fourth year when he met a self-styled cosmic heretic, Immanuel Velikovsky, who was already sixty-seven, and for the next twenty years a wide band of life's spectrum was colored by their relationship. As with a love affair, all that happened in the beginning presaged what would happen later, stretched out on the scale of time, themes doubling back upon themselves, attractions and reservations never to be erased, continuing accumulations.|
|The men changed, the world of science changed, too, and also the political world, yet this latter less; for, after all, one man died and the other grew old, whereas science and politics, those statistical behemoths of collective behavior, go on forever, compounded of many millions of individuals whose average age hardly varies, exhibiting trends whose progress, if it could be called such, is hardly discernible and might indeed have constituted a regression. At least so it seemed to these two men who were trying to affect the science and politics of their time.|
Velikovsky died a heretic, with scattered generally unfavorable press, while his friend de Grazia moved on with a spirit that could be called existential, convinced as before that politics (and he insisted upon regarding science, too, as politics and often included politics in psychopathology) - that politics, although probably irredeemable, was the elemental hydrogen of human behavior, no matter how compounded into life styles.
As the winter days of 1962 became 1963 in Princeton, New Jersey, 08540 U.S.A., families and friends gathered into clusters like the last of the leaves, so that half-consciously and driven by eddies of customs and calendar, de Grazia saw more of his friends like Livio Catullus Stecchini and of his brother Sebastian. He did not know Velikovsky, and if he had been asked about him, he would have replied that he had never heard of him.
This may appear strange, considering that Deg was to be numbered, by whatever scales a social psychologist might invent to distinguish the "informed and involved" from the "ignorant and apathetic," as a high-scorer on information and involvement. He had enough children in the Princeton school system, a half-dozen, to catch the sound of names from all quarters. He spent part of each week in New York City and at Greenwich Village where, of all places, the name of Velikovsky might have been bruited about. He had since 1957 published and edited a magazine, the American Behavioral Scientist, which pretended to cover those matters that were or should be the concern of social scientists. He personally scanned a hundred-and-fifty magazines in the social sciences and current affairs each month. He had many students, several of them close friends. His parents and the families of two brothers were living most of the time at Princeton.
He was not socially pretentious, nor a prideful man, not a University snob, and had had to pawn his professional reputation several times on behalf of scholarly and political iconoclasm. Withal, when it came down to it, he claimed that he had never heard of a man about whom a million or more Americans could have delivered him a rancorous account. One feature that makes mass society a horror-show is the actual anonymity of the famous. (However, the mass scatoma of social realities may be a worse feature.)
This he confessed when Livio Stecchini, as they walked along Nassau Street on that cold day, brought up the matter, disjointedly, as happens with men walking down the street to no end, intellectuals with minds chock-full of oddly related and far-off affairs, old friends whose thoughts needed no introduction nor conclusion. Knowing the two men, 1 imagine that their conversation would have gone something like this:
"There is a man in Princeton with good material on the scientific establishment... Cosmogonist ... They suppressed his books."
"What do you mean, suppressed his books?"
"They smeared him."
"Like Reich? Like Semmelweis?"
"What does he do?"
"He lives here. He writes."
"Mythology, astronomy, the Bible, ancient catastrophes."
"What does he live on?"
"His books. They are very well sold."
"That's not our topic."
"No. The ABS could take up the sociological side. It's rich."
Deg was skeptical. Although his American Behavioral Scientist would stop at nothing, every scientist had his one or two little scandals of defamation, every professor his Dean's secret crime, his edgy paranoia, and you had to take his word for it. It was the same in politics, dirty tricks everywhere and defamation as a matter of course. As for the juggernaut of science, it rolled along smashing unconscionably the god's celebrants who crowded in upon it from all sides with fresh ideas and reputations.
"His materials are rich." Again that remark.
"I can introduce you. We can go to his house. He lives on Hartley Avenue."
"Down near the Lake."
"To take a look at his stuff."
"Maybe... What's his name?"
"Never heard of him."
* * *
A few days later Stecchini received a phone call from Deg. Deg had been to dinner at Sebastian's home. There was the usual babble and movement afterwards. He circled around the front room with its piles of papers and open bookshelves, pausing at the one where books of high mobility and heterogeneity sunned themselves for a few days. He picked out a forcefully jacketed book, Oedipus and Akhnaton, the author: Velikovsky.
First the large photograph of the author, then the flyleaf, then the table of contents, then the index - he is grasping now for the thesis: the ill-fated incestuous Oedipus was none other than the Egyptian monotheistic pharaoh Akhnaton - more riffling of pages - the small definite sparking of the book browser.
"What's this?" He poked the book at Sebastian. "Any good?"
Sebastian was non-committal; probably he had not read it.
"Mind if I borrow it?"
He began to read it that evening. It was "True Detective," connecting two eminent figures never before joined. He finished it the next day.
How did he find the time to read it so promptly? A man who attends to a wife, a passel of kids, a dog, a cat, a station wagon, a large house with many doors and windows to mind, fireplaces to dampen, a busy telephone, a fat folder marked "action now", with half a dozen jobs, including a professorship and an editorship, with a propensity to daydream, and in that American society which tries in a hundred ways to pry into one's time and makes life tough for readers, and needing seven hours of sleep - how does he read a book? (...)
The book was the best produced of V.'s works, which were ordinarily drab. Oedipus and Akhnaton carried many fine illustrations, a superior jacket, and excellent typeface and good printing paper. Still, it did not sell as well as any of a dozen detective novels of the day, and, vibrant and valid, was marked by its publisher for abandonment in 1984.
Deg could be sure that practically none of his hundreds of friends and colleagues, students and acquaintances had yet read the book or would ever do so... But then he too had written books of which none but the textbooks had sold over a thousand copies. And he could recite the names of many distinguished scholars whose books had sold less. The dream of best-selling great books nevertheless carries on, a myth, deadly to most and profitable to a very few.
|Alfred de Grazia at the 2012 Quantavolution Conference in Naxos, Greece|
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