Beaumont & Velikovsky

from: Chronology & Catastrophism Review. Journal of the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies 1996:2
William Comyns Beaumont (1873 - 1956)
Britain’s Most Eccentric and Least Known Cosmic Heretic

By Benny J Peiser

Did Immanuel Velikovsky knowingly present ideas someone else had developed many years earlier? While this question seems bizarre even to his most ardent opponents, it was recently raised in a paper by Robert Stephanos (Stephanos 1994). Hardly anybody has ever questioned the originality of Velikovsky's flawed ideas of planetary catastrophes in historical times. While some critics have underlined that Velikovsky was mean with his acknowledgements of earlier catastrophists (Michell 1984, 142), and others have stressed that the claims of Velikovsky's originality were spurious because earlier authors had written about cometary catastrophes (Bauer 1984, 215ff.), many still believe that Velikovsky was the first proponent of planetary catastrophism in this century.

The reader of Alfred de Grazia's book Cosmic Heritics (de Grazia 1984) will therefore be surprised to learn that the first modern catastrophist was inn fact a British super-eccentric, William Comyns Beaumont, who is hardly known today but was a top-ranking English editor. Some of his ideas seem quite quite mad - e.g. the idea that the Egyptian dynasties up to the 13th century B.C. ruled in South Wales and that Jerusalem was originally located in Edinburgh (de Grazia 1984, 138). In view of this, readers may regard the relative obscrurity of this bizarre catastrophist as rather fitting. Yet one's surprise turns into sheer amazement when we read that William Beaumont - with the exception of his matchless biblical exegesis - had developed almost identical ideas to those of Velikovsky and some of his ideas were published 25 years before Worlds in Collision appeared in print. In fact, Beaumont had published no less than three lengthy books on colliding planets, cometary catastrophes (which he associated with the Exodus catastrophes), and revised chronologies - all of them published before Velikovsky entered the cosmic arena (Beaumont 1925, 1932, 1946). De Grazia lists Beaumont's main ideas as follows (de Grazia 138/39):

  1. The geology of the world's surface is largely catastrophic.
  2. The catastrophe was caused by a cometary collision.
  3. All geological formations were shifted as a result.
  4. Cosmic lightning played a major role.
  5. Hydrocarbons were present in cometary tails.
  6. Ancient chronology was several hundred years too old.
  7. The Ancient calendars had to be revised because of the catastrophe.
  8. Many species were extinguished catastrophically.
  9. Religion was born in cometary worship and tied to phallic forms because of the shape of comets.
  10. Fear of cometary collisions is inherited by mankind.
  11. Vermin were deposited by comets which also provoked plagues.
  12. Deities from Egypt, Greece, Meso-America, and elsewhere were identified with planets.
  13. Pyramids were both astronomical observatories and "air-raid shelters" for nobility and kings.
  14. Planet Saturn, as a comet caused the Noachian Deluge.
  15. The Atlantis date (ca. 9500 B.C.) given by Plato had to be shortened.
  16. Extensive legendary evidence pictures the "hairy," "bearded," "blazing stars" that were comets.
  17. Stonehenge, Avebury Circle and similar monuments were astronomical instruments.
  18. Central American legends (and cultures) were contemporaneous with those of the Old World.
  19. The intercalary "five evil days" were cursed because they coincided with a world disaster and the ending of an age.
  20. The serpent, dragon, winged-globe, caduceus, and other ancient symbols are traceable to cometary catastrophes.
  21. Religious festival are dated by cometary catastrophes.
  22. Cometary conflagrations are the origin of coal deposits.
  23. The ancients had a true 360 day year.
  24. The planet Venus underwent great changes in color, diameter, figure, and orbit in the time of Ogyges.
  25. Quetzalcoatl (Coculkan-Hurakan) commemorated the cometary dragon for the Meso-Aniericans.

Beaumont's theses are almost identical to those of Velikovsky. Yet Beaumont developed and published them as early as the 1920s and 1930s. Could this extraordinary similarity have been a freak accident? If this correspondence was not a fluke, how could it be explained? "Could Velikovsky have read and forgotten Beaumont's books?", de Grazia (1984, 139) asked. De Grazia tried to reconciliate the evidence with the fact that Beaumont's style and method were entirely different from Velikovsky's.

De Grazia pointed out that "too many of Beaumont's conclusions are the same to explain them as sheer coincidence". He therefore speculated as to how this parallelism could possibly be accounted for: "I guess that either in the 1920s or 1930s, when Velikovsky was in Palestine, the books [by Beaumont], published in England and dealing with matters of interest to the Near East, made an appearance in the bookstores and were seen by Velikovsky" (De Grazia 1984, 140).

According to de Grazia, Beaumont's early books were not held by Columbia University Libraries and only Beaumont's third book, "The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain" (published in 1946), appeared in the Columbia University library catalogues, and "By that time 'Worlds in Collision' had been written" (De Grazia 1984, 140).

However, according to de Grazia, "a note exists in his [Velikovsky's] archive, mentioning having read Beaumont's 1932 book; the note dismisses the work. Yet Velikovsky expresses his wonder whether Beaumont had gotten his (V's) ideas by telepathy" (de Grazia 1984, 140). But how could Beaumont have borrowed Velikovsky's ideas as early as 1925 or 1932 (let alone by means of telepathy) when - according to Velikovsky's own account - Worlds in Collision was only conceived in 1940? De Grazia was suspicious: "Could there have been a 'Bridie Murphy Effect" which might explain Velikovsky's rather irrational accusations against Beaumont?" (de Grazia 1984, 140). Had Velikovsky simply 'forgotten' that he had already come across Beaumont's books (or ideas) in the 1920s or 1930s?

In hindsight, de Grazia was much too quick to rule out direct influence. He failed to check whether Beaumont's books were stored in the Public Library on 42nd Street, the other big library which Velikovsky had frequently used during the 1940s. It holds all of Beaumont's early books, so they were readily available to Velikovsky during his ten years of research.

Bauer, H.H. (1984), Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press)
Beaumont, W.C. [=Appian Way] (1925), The Riddle of the Earth (London)
Beaumont, W.C. (1932), The Mysterious Comet (London: Rider & Co)
Beaumont, W.C. (1946), The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain (London/New York/Melbourne/Sydney: Rider & Co)
Beaumont, W.C. (1947) Britain the Key to World History (London/New York/Melbourne/Sydney/Cape Town: Rider & Co)
Beaumont, W.C. (1948) A Rebel in Fleet Street (London: Hutchinson & Co)
de Grazia, A. (1984), Cosmic Heretics (Princeton: Metron)
Michell, J. (1984), Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions (London: Thames & Hudson)
Stephanos, R.C. (1994) Catastrophists in Collision: Did Velikovsky borrow from Beaumont's original works? In: Fate [March 1994], 66-72
Velikovsky, I. (1950), Worlds in Collision (London: Victor Gollantz)