It was a warm, clear afternoon in the capital. The bustle of metropolitan commerce and tourism filled the streets. Small sailing vessels dotted the sheltered waters within sight of the government buildings, riding on a soft southerly breeze. The Sun sparkled on the gentle swells and wakes, lending a luminous glow to the poppies and tulips nodding in the parks along the water's edge. All was in order.

But suddenly, the sky brightened as if with a second, more brilliant Sun. A second set of shadows appeared; at first long and faint, they shortened and sharpened rapidly. A strange hissing, humming sound seemed to come from everywhere at once. Thousands craned their necks and looked upwards, searching the sky for the new Sun. Above them a tremendous white fireball blossomed, like the unfolding of a vast paper flower, but now blindingly bright. For several seconds the fierce fireball dominated the sky, shaming the Sun. The sky burned white-hot, then slowly faded through yellow and orange to a glowering copper-red. The awful hissing ceased. The onlookers, blinded by the flash, burned by its searing heat, covered their eyes and cringed in terror. Occupants of offices and apartments rushed to their windows, searching the sky for the source of the brilliant flare that had lit their rooms. A great blanket of turbulent, coppery cloud filled half the sky overhead. For a dozen heartbeats the city was awestruck, numbed and silent.
Then, without warning, a tremendous blast smote the city, knocking pedestrians to the ground. Shuttered doors and windows blew out; fences, walls, and roofs groaned and cracked. A shock wave raced across the city and its waterways, knocking sailboats flat in the water. A hot, sulfurous wind like an open door into hell, the breath of a cosmic ironmaker's furnace, pressed downward from the sky, filled with the endless reverberation of invisible landslides. Then the hot breath slowed and paused; the normal breeze resumed with renewed vigor, and cool air blew across the city from the south. The sky overhead now faded to dark gray, then to a portentous black. A turbulent black cloud like a rumpled sheet seemed to descend from heaven. Fine black dust began to fall, slowly, gently, suspended and swirled by the breeze. For an hour or more the black dust fell, until, dissipated and dispersed by the breeze, the cloud faded from view.

Many thought it was the end of the world...

(Reconstruction of events in Constantinople, AD 472, "Rain of Iron and Ice" (1996) John S. Lewis, Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Co-director of the NASA/University of Arizona Space Engineering Research Center, and Commissioner of the Arizona State Space Commission.)
As I have continued to dig into this subject triggered by reading Victor Clube's paper: The Hazard to Civilization from Fireballs and Comets, it sure appears that I have opened a can of worms. I can report two things at this point: 1) there is a lot of covert research going on about this subject; 2) Victor Clube, himself, seems to have disappeared. We've got some researchers digging on that right now and I'll report back later. It could be the guy just retired, but for the moment, it does seem a bit mysterious considering the things he has written on the topic to hand.

In any event, once you pull one worm out of the can, a whole bunch of others that are tangled up together come out too, and you start getting a bit discombobulated wondering which one you should pull on first! And the things you find out when you start on a subject like this! Amazing! I've got a stack of books and papers on my desk two feet high!

Anyway, according to Dr. Lewis, whose fanciful scenario of what it might be like to witness an overhead cometary fragment explosion is quoted above, our Earth actually experiences these types of events rather often, even if somewhat irregularly. Explosions in the sky - some of them enormous - have, according to him and many other scientists, profoundly affected the history of humanity. Strangely, historians, as a group, don't speak about such things. That is one of the things that is making this research so difficult. It's not just a matter of going and reading a history book and the author saying something like: Well, in 325 AD Constantine was terrified by an overhead cometary explosion and decided to adopt Christianity as a consequence, and to make it the state religion.

How did this affect history?

The conversion of the Emperor to Christianity certainly couldn't change the beliefs and practices of most of his subjects. But he could - and did - choose to grant favors and privileges to those whose faith he had accepted. He built churches for them, exempted the priesthood from civic duties and taxes, gave the bishops secular power over judicial affairs, and made them judges against whom there was no appeal.

Sounds like a Fascist regime, eh?

Early Christianity had very distinct and novel ideas that were grafted onto Judaism. Christianity retained and passed on in a virulent way, certain ideals of Judaism which have produced the foundation upon which our present culture is predicated.

The main template of Christianity - received directly from Judaism - is that of SIN.

The history of SIN from that point to now, is a story of its triumph.

Awareness of the nature of SIN led to a growth industry in agencies and techniques for dealing with it. These agencies became centers of economic and military power, as they are today.

Christianity - promoting the ideals of Judaism under a thin veneer of the "New Covenant" - changed the ways in which men and women interacted with one another. It changed the attitude to life's one certainty: death. It changed the degree of freedom with which people could acceptably choose what to think and believe.

Pagans had been intolerant of the Jews and Christians whose religions tolerated no gods but their own. The rising domination of Christianity created a much sharper conflict between religions, and religious intolerance became the norm, not the exception.

Christianity also brought the open coercion of religious belief. You could even say that, by the modern definition of a cult as a group that uses manipulation and mind control to induce worship, Christianity is the Mother of all Cults - in service to the mysogynistic, fascist ideals of Judaism!

The rising Christian heirarchy of the Dark Ages was quick to mobilize military forces against believers in other gods and most especially, against other Christians who promoted less Fascist systems of belief. This probably included the original Christians and the original teachings.

The change of the Western world from Pagan to Christian effectively changed how people viewed themselves and their interactions with their reality. And we live today with the fruits of those changes: War Without End.

Now, on what basis can we relate the ascendancy of Christianity to overhead cometary explosions?

In a recent issue of New Scientist, (vol 178 issue 2400 - 21 June 2003, page 13) there is an article that reports on the discovery of a meteorite impact crater dating from the fourth or fifth century AD in the Apennines. The crater is now a "seasonal lake," roughly circular with a diameter of between 115 and 140 meters, which has a pronounced raised rim and no inlet or outlet and is fed solely by rainfall. There are a dozen much smaller craters nearby, such as would be created when a meteorite with a diameter of some 10 meters shattered during entry into the atmosphere.

A team led by the Swedish geologist Jens Ormo believes the crater was caused by a meteorite landing with a one-kiloton impact--equivalent to a very small nuclear blast--and producing shock waves, earthquakes and a mushroom cloud.

Samples from the crater's rim have been dated to the year 312 plus or minus 40 years, but small amounts of contamination with recent material could account for a date significantly later than 312.

The legend of a falling star has been around in the Apennines since Roman times, but the event that it describes has been a mystery. Other accounts from the 4th century describe how barbarians stood at the gates of the Roman empire while a Christian movement threatened its stability from within. The emperor Constantine saw an amazing vision in the sky, converted to Christianity on the spot, and led his army to victory under the sign of the cross. But what did he see?

Could the impact of a meteorite hitting the Italian Apennines have been the sign in the sky that encouraged the Emperor Constantine to invoke the Christian God in his decisive battle in 312 when he defeated his fellow Emperor Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge?

This reminds us of the report of the historian Herodian who described the siege of Aquileia by Maximinus in the 230s during which operation the soldiers saw "the god Apollo" appearing "frequently" above the city and fighting for it. Herodian wasn't certain whether the soldiers REALLY saw it, or whether they just invented it to explain their defeat. The standard explanation is, of course, that it was common for generals to claim "appearances" in order to give heart to their troops. But maybe, sometimes, they DID see something?

This reminds me of something else: I recently read a news article about a fellow who had a meteorite come through the roof of his house while he was at work. His reaction was extremely interesting: he announced that this was a "sign from God" that he needed to go to church and renew his faith.

What is up with that?

Clube writes elsewhere:
...[W]ithin these last few years, it has been found that there is a great swarm of cosmic debris circulating in a potentially dangerous orbit, exactly intersecting the Earth's orbit in June (and November) every few thousand years. More surprisingly, perhaps, it has been found that the evidence for these facts was in the past deliberately concealed. When the orbits exactly intersect however, there is a greatly increased chance of penetrating the core of the swarm, a correspondingly enhanced flow of fireballs reaching the Earth, and a greatly raised perception that the end of the world is nigh. This perception is liable to arise at other times as well, whenever fresh debris is formed, but deep penetrations occurred during the fourth millennium BC, again during the first millennium BC, taking in at their close the time of Christ, and will likely take place yet again during the millennium to come.

Christian religion began appropriately enough therefore, with an apocalyptic vision of the past, but in the aftermath of the last deep penetrations, once the apparent danger had passed, truth was converted to mythology in the hands of a revisionist church and such prior knowledge of the swarm as existed, which now comes to us through the works of Plato and others, was later systematically suppressed.

Subsequently the Christian vision of a permanent peace on Earth was by no means universally accepted, and it was to undergo several stages of "enlightenment" before it culminated with our present secular version of history, to which science itself subscribes, perceiving little or no danger from the sky. The lack of danger is an illusion, however, and the long arm of an early Christian delusion still has its effect. [...]

The idea of a terrible sanction hanging over mankind is not, of course, new. Armageddon has been widely feared in the past and it was a common belief that it would arrive with the present millennium. During the last thousand years, moreover, it has usually been the reforming church that revived the fear. But such ideas, whenever they have arisen, have always met with fierce opposition. Sometimes the proponents of such ideas escape to new found new lands where in due course they meet opposition of a homegrown kind. In the United States for example, despite freedom of speech, old traditions of cosmic catastrophe have recurred from time to time, even in the present century, only to be confronted by Pavlovian outrage from authorities. That being the case, it is perhaps ironic that elections in the United States are generally held in November following the tradition of an ancient convocation of tribes at that time of the year, which probably had its roots in a real fear of world-end as the Earth coincided with the swarm.

In Europe the millennium was finally dispensed with when an official "providential" view of the world was developed as a counter to ideas sustained during the Reformation. Indeed to hold anything like a contrary view at this time became something of a heresy and those who were given to rabble-rousing for fear of the millennium were roundly condemned. To the extent that a cosmic winter and Armageddon have aspects in common, therefore, authoritarian outrage is nothing new. [...]

Enlightenment, of course, builds on the providential view and treats the cosmos as a harmless backdrop to human affairs, a view of the world which Academe now often regards as its business to uphold and to which the counter-reformed Church and State are only too glad to subscribe. Indeed it appears that repeated cosmic stress - supernatural illuminations - have been deliberately programmed out of Christian theology and modern science, arguably the two most influential contributions of western civilization to the control and well-being of humanity.

As a result, we have now come to think of global catastrophe, whether through nuclear war, ozone holes, the greenhouse effect of whatever, as a prospect originating purely with ourselves; and because of this, because we are faced with "authorities" who never look higher than the rooftops, the likely impact of the cosmos figures hardly at all in national plans. [...]

A great illusion of cosmic security thus envelops mankind, one that the "establishment" of Church, State and Academe do nothing to disturb. Persistence in such an illusion will do nothing to alleviate the next Dark Age when it arrives. But it is easily shattered: one simply has to look at the sky.

The outrage, then, springs from a singularly myopic stance which may now place the human species a little higher than the ostrich, awaiting the fate of the dinosaur. (Clube, (1990)The Cosmic Winter)
In Cosmic Turkey Shoot, we had a look at Victor Clube's summary statement of conclusions based on his longer report entitled: Narrative Report on the Hazard to Civilization due to Fireballs and Comets which he wrote under the sponsorship of the US Air Force and Oxford Department of Physics. In the summary Clube writes:
Every 5-10 generations or so, for about a generation, mankind is subject to an increased risk of global insult through another kind of cosmic agency.
Every 5 to 10 generations? That's a pretty shocking statement. If it is true, then why don't we know about this? Why don't historians know about it? Why don't average people who learn history (one is told) in school, know about these things?

I dug around a bit, following references from Clube, and found that there is, in fact, a group that is looking at these things, but I don't think they are doing it to inform the general public, nor do they have the best interests of the public in mind. Have a look at the INSAP website and follow some of their links. Their first conference, attended by Clube and referenced obliquely in his report on the Hazards to Civilization, was held at the Mondo Migliore, under the sponsorship of the Vatican Observatory, Rocco di Papa, Italy, from 27 June - 2 July 1994. Their mandate reads:
INSAP conferences explore the rich and diverse ways in which people of the past and present incorporate astronomical events into literary, visual, and performance arts. This emphasis distinguishes INSAP from other conferences that focus on archeoastronomy, ethnoastronomy, or cultural astronomy. INSAP provides a mechanism for a broad sampling of artists, writers, musicians, historians, philosophers, scientists, and others to talk about the diversity of astronomical inspiration.
This, of course, reminds me of the strange recent news item about the new Pope evicting the Jesuits from the papal summer palace. See: Pope tells astronomers to pack up their telescopes

Following that story, one then finds this: Italian scientists attack Pope's equivocation on Galileo trial
Pope Benedict XVI has been forced to cancel a visit to the prestigious La Sapienza University in Rome after lecturers and students expressed outrage at his past defence of the Catholic church's actions against Galileo.

The Pope had been due to make a speech at the university on Thursday 17 January 2008. [...]

Sixty-seven academics have said that the Pope effectively condoned the 1633 trial and conviction of the astronomer Galileo for heresy, in remarks he made while head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the notorious Inquisition.

As Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict said that Galileo had turned out to be correct about the earth revolving around the sun, and that subsequent biblical scholarship had rejected literalist readings of texts that had been taken by the Church to deny this.

Nevertheless, he said, Galileo had been dogmatic and sectarian in his statements at the time, and the Church authorities had acted reasonably given the levels of knowledge available then.

But the scientists say that this is "insulting" and unacceptable equivocation. The Church was unjust, irrational and unfair in its treatment of their predecessor and its outright rejection of Copernican theory, they say.
My, my! Well, anyway, before Ratzinger was selected to run the Catholic Fraud Factory, apparently the Jesuits were pretty interested in figuring out what was going on here on the BBM - for what purposes, we may never know.

Clube was there at one of their meetings and presented a paper which is so interesting that I have taken the time to covert it to text and put it in the Sott database: The Nature of Punctuational Crises and the Spenglerian Model of Civilization Parts of it are a bit rough, but it is well worth the trouble of reading it all the way through - maybe more than once - and giving a lot of thought to the implications of what he writes there especially in regard to any group of people who are trying to dig out this kind of information and present it to the public. Clube makes it abundantly clear why this must be considered a revolutionary activity!

Getting back to the narrative report he wrote for Oxford and the USAF, he says:
The sequence of events affecting involved generations is potentially debilitating because, whether or not the risk is realised, civilization commonly undergoes violent transitions e.g. revolution, migration and collapse.
In short, whether or not there are any impacts during those periods when "something is out there, rather close and threatening," people go crazy when they get the feeling that they are living on a target in a cosmic shooting gallery. Yes, indeed, the knowledge that the earth beneath our feet may not be so firmly and peacefully fixed in space assaults our deepest feelings of security. It's almost as if Clube is saying that there is some sort of contagious madness, a stampeding of human beings, almost, like a herd of cattle stampeding over a cliff because someone accidentally (or on purpose) shoots a gun into the air. That's not even a bad metaphor because, as we are going to see in today's installment, it seems that the ruling elite DO tend to take advantage of such conditions for their own purposes which are usually to grab more power and plunder.
Subsequently perceived as pointless, such transitions [revolution, migration and collapse] are commonly an embarrassment to national elites even to the extent that historical and astronomical evidence of the risk are abominated and suppressed.
Indeed, when the madness dies down and the people begin to realize what fools they have made of themselves and, more importantly, what fools their leaders are, when they view how much death and destruction has occurred for no good reason at all except a form of madness, I'm sure that the elites do want to just shove it all under the rug and try to make everyone forget that it ever happened so as to keep their hands on the reins of power. As we will see, this isn't how it always turns out. Sometimes, the people are so hostile when they see how they have been abused by their leaders, the leaders pay a rather high price... sometimes their very heads!
Upon revival of the risk, however, such "enlightenment" becomes an inducement to violent transition since historical and astronomical evidence are then in demand.

Such change and change about in addition to the insult is evidently self-defeating and calls for a procedure to eliminate the risk.
The term "enlightenment", used above, is a reference to people waking up to what is possibly going on out there in space. Turning to the full-text report, on page 2, discussing potential impacting giant comet remnants, we read that...
...their presence is readily enough betrayed by the zodiacal dust which continues to accumulate in the ecliptic and by the rather sudden encounters which the Earth makes every other century or so, for several decades... These encounters produce an overabundance of fireballs penetrating the Earth's atmosphere implying both an increased probability of bombardment by sub-kilometre debris AND an increased risk that the Earth will penetrate the core of a minor disintegration stream a la Shoemaker-Levy.
An abundance of fireballs and repeated comet sighting apparently excites a lot of "eschatological" activity - predictions that the world is gonna end - that can lead to all kinds of social unrest which is, as Clube points out, highly undesirable to the ruling elites. After all, if people are thinking the world is going to end, they generally blame it on their rulers for being so corrupt and evil! The way they usually handle that sort of thing is to create an ostensible enemy who is responsible for it all, get a war going that satisfies everyone's "end of the world blues" and kills of most of them in the bargain! Clever, aren't they?

Right now, however, I want to come back to that "every other century or so" comment where Clube says this has been happening and then covered up by "governing elites" who are embarrassed. What the heck? As it happens, further on in the narrative we find out just what periods he is referring to:
There have been five extended epochs since the Renaissance when the Earth apparently encountered the fragmentation debris of previously unsighted comets.
Well, we know from the work of Mike Baillie that the period around 540 AD is highly suspect as the period around the Black Death is also. The events that Baillie suggests were happening during those periods are backed up by very strong scientific data. But those aren't the periods that Clube is talking about here. He is saying "since the Renaissance." The Renaissance, of course, followed closely on the heels of the Black Death which Baillie considers to have been a period of cometary bombardment that killed almost half of humanity! (Or so it seems from the statistics given for those areas where statistics were obtainable.) In the broadest of terms, the Renaissance covers the 200 years between 1400 and 1600, although specialists disagree on exact dates. The Black Death began in 1347/1348, 50 years earlier, so it could even be inferred that the Black Death was the gestational period for the Renaissance, or that the Renaissance occurred as a reaction to the Black Death.

Anyway, what we now see is that Victor Clube is suggesting that there was a lot more going on in our recorded history than we know about, and that the rise and fall of nations and civilizations may be closely related to what is going on out there in space! To continue:
During these epochs, broadly coinciding with the Hundred Years' War, the Reformation, the Thirty Years' War (including the English Civil War), the French Revolutionary Period (including the American War of Independence) and the mid-nineteenth century Revolutionary crisis in Europe [including the American Civil War], the various national authorities could do very little to restrain public anxiety in the face of the perceived danger.
Okay, we now have some specific periods where Clube, et al, believe that strange things were going on in the space around our planet. It might help us to better understand our own time period to take a look at times past.

The Hundred Years War covers the 116 year period from 1337 to 1453, the Black Death 1347/48 - 1351, and then the Renaissance: 1400 to 1600. Some really ugly stuff was going on back then! Anyway, as for the war itself, it was a conflict between France and England, over claims by the English kings to the French throne. It was punctuated by several brief and two lengthy periods of peace before it finally ended in the expulsion of the English from France, with the exception of the Calais Pale. We notice that this state of conflict was already in motion about ten years before the Black Death fell on Europe. If you were of a strong religious bent, you might even want to say that the Hand of God punished mankind for being warlike! That is probably what the people of the time thought and I suspect that this was not a favorable view for the masses to take toward their leaders.

The Hundred Years' War was also the time of Joan of Arc who was running around hearing voices and rallying people to an apocalyptic standard.

Joan of Arc, Witch and Heretic

There was unbelievable devastation in France, and the end result of this war was that it helped to establish a sense of nationalism in France, ended all English claims to French territory; and made possible the emergence of centralized governing institutions and an absolute monarchy. One commentator notes:
The Hundred Years War was actually dozens of little wars and hundreds of battles and sieges that went on for over a century (1337-1453), until both sides were exhausted. While neither side won in any real sense, the end result was that while there were two kingdoms at the beginning of the war, there were two nations at the end of it.
When one studies the history of the Black Death and the Hundred Years War side by side, the thing that stands out is that whatever was going on then, there were conscienceless people taking advantage of the situation of confusion and terror. For example, we read the following:
This would be a war of devastation. Villages and crops were burned, orchards were felled, livestock seized and residents harried. On Edward's entry into France he spent a week torching Cambrai and its environs. More than 1,000 villages were destroyed. France did what it could in England, at the war's onset seamen ventured to the southeastern coast of England to burn and ravage there. Much plunder was taken back to England and the thought of acquiring ill-gotten gain enticed many to support the war. Ransom was another was of monetary gain and a king, nobles, knights and even citizens were taken hostage.

Cruelty abounded. After the city of Limoges was captured and burned, Edward ordered the townsmen executed. Much of Artois, Brittany, Normandy, Gascony and other provinces were reduced to desolation (circa 1355 to 1375) and France did the same to the provinces that sided with England. Walled towns were safe during the early period of the war, but churches, monasteries, villages and rural areas were ruined.

Truce and treaty were not observed. The "Free Companies" went into action, bandits of Either, English, French or hired mercenaries led by captains that dominated large areas and levied tribute on towns, villages and churches. They also seized women, took clergymen as accountants and correspondents, children for servants and plundered. ( Edward P. Cheney, (1936)The Dawn of a New Era 1250-1435)
Another source tells us:
For the first few years of the war there wasn't much happening except English raids into France and Flanders. Then, in the 1340s, England and France took opposite sides in the long-running civil war over who should be the duke of Britanny. In 1346 this resulted in a French invasion of Gascony and the shattering French defeat at Crecy. The English then rampaged through western France, until a truce was signed in 1354 (brought on by the devastation of the Plague, which hit France heavily in 1347-48)

The truce didn't last. In 1355, the war began again. In 1356 another major battle was fought at Poitiers and the French king was captured. English raids continued until 1360, when another truce was signed.
In addition to all the warring going on, the plague, etc, the weather was going crazy! Clube writes:
One chronicler at least reports of the most immediate cause of the plague in 1345 that "between Cathay and Persia there rained a vast rain of fire; falling in flakes like snow and burning up mountains and plains and other lands, with men and women; and then arose vast masses of smoke; and whosoever beheld this died within the space of half a day..." There seems little doubt also that a worldwide cooling of the Earth played a fundamental part in the process. The Arctic polar cap extended, changing the cyclonic pattern and leading to a series of disastrous harvests. These in turn led to widespread famine, death and social disruption.

In England and Scotland there is a pattern of abandoned villages and farms, soaring wheat prices and falling populations.

In Eastern Europe there was a series of winters of unparalleled severity and depth of snow. The chronicles of monasteries in Poland and Russia tell of cannibalism, common graves overfilled with corpses, and migrations to the west.

Even before the Black Death came, then, a human catastrophe of great proportions was under way in late medieval times. Indeed the cold snap lasted well beyond the period of the ... plague. A number of such fluctuations are to be found in the historical record, and there is good evidence that these climatic stresses are connected not only with famine but also with times of great social unrest, wars, revolution and mass migrations. (Clube, The Cosmic Winter)
It sounds surprisingly like our own era, doesn't it? There are differences in detail and scale, but the dynamics of a world gone mad, and incredible cruelty running rampant, and global climate fluctuations are the same as we see before us now.

One naturally wonders why the masses of people would put up with such a state of affairs since it was they - and not the elite - who took the brunt of the horrors. The answer then is the same as it is now. The masses of ordinary people support their leaders in war because of propaganda. During wartime, church and state generally form an alliance and patriotic statements are used in church sermons to support the ruling elite. The goal of the government is always to make the masses hate the enemy that the leaders wish to destroy (or at least to take their attention off their own depredations on the body social). In addition to the propaganda of church and state, governments will offer increased wages and new opportunities to those who fight in the war (mercenaries like Blackwater today). Criminals are often released from prison to fight. Then and now, people are promised lands, goods, benefits of all kinds, if they join the war effort. In some cases, what is offered to the common man is just to be left alone in their "normal life" and not hounded or ridiculed. All of this has been how wars have been supported since time immemorial, and nothing has changed. The lures of power and goods make people who have no conscience, or who are low on the social totem pole enthusiastic to join in killing other people just like themselves.

Calvinism was one of the developments that came out of this period. As Clube notes, the Protestant reformation was partly due to the fact that the Powers of the Time, the Catholic Church, had built their control system based on the Aristotelian system of "God is in his heaven and all will be right with the world if you are a good Christian." Obviously, they didn't want to talk about a cosmos run amok over which their vaunted god had no control. And the fact that things were running amok and the church couldn't do anything about it (not to mention the corruption of the church that was evident to the masses) gave ammunition to the Reformers who then were able to attract many followers just as Christianity attracted Constantine at a time when the pagan gods didn't seem to be able to help in the face of cometary bombardment.

The Protestants thus were able to use the situation to advantage, suggesting that it was "The End of Times" and that this was all part of the plan and people would be saved if they would only come over to the Protestant side!

Of course, once the Protestants had "won their place," so to say, they, too, had to establish authority and adopt the Aristotelian view! "NOW, God is in his heaven and all will be right and there won't be any more catastrophic disruptions as long as everybody goes to church, tithes, and obeys the appointed authoritie!"

Another bizarre thing that came out of this time period was witch persecutions. From the early decades of the fifteenth century until 1650, continental Europeans executed between two and five hundred thousand witches (according to conservative estimates), more than 85 percent of them being women. (Ben-Yehuda, 1985) People of the time - and even later - really did believe in the reality of witchcraft and evil demons. Men like Newton, Bacon, Boyle, Locke and Hobbes, firmly believed in the reality of evil spirits and witches. As Russell said:
Tens of thousands of [witch] trials continued throughout Europe generation after generation, while Leonardo painted, Palestrina composed and Shakespeare wrote." (1977)
In order to understand this part of what was going on throughout those troublesome times, we have to back up a bit.

Witchcraft and witches have existed throughout history though in a context completely different from that which came to be understood during the crusade against witches. The Old Testament pretty much ignores the topic except to report an encounter between King Saul and the witch of Endor and to include a law: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." But, other than that, in a way that seems to bizarrely contradict that law, stories of witches in the Bible are surprisingly neutral. There is no conceptualization or elaboration of witches, devils, or any kind of demonic world.

In ancient Greece and Rome, magic was used to produce rain, prevent hail storms, drive away clouds, calm the winds, make the earth bear fruit, increase wealth, cure the sick, and so on. It could also be used against one's enemies to deprive them of those desirable effects. These beliefs were widespread in the ancient world and generally, "good magic" was lawful and necessary, and "bad magic" was condemned and punished. The state even supported those who could purportedly do "good magic." It depended on perspective whether you were a "good magician" or a "bad" one. That's probably why the English condemned Joan of Arc for being a witch and France turned around and canonized her.

The Graeco-Roman religious universe - the supernatural world - was not divided into extreme good and extreme evil. It was occupied by every shade and combination of all qualities exactly as existed in human society. (It was only in the Judeo-Christian religion that God becomes the very image of absolute goodness and purity, and the devil was invented to be his opposite.) For the ancient world, magic was simply an attempt to harness the power of the Unseen while religion occupied itself with respect and gratitude to Nature and its representatives for results. In this way, prayers and spells could be easily combined.

The witch or sorcerer was a person who had a method - a technology - that could be used to harness and activate supernatural powers on behalf of himself or others. He could "control" the forces of nature. (At least, that is what they believed.)

So, two points are important here: 1) witchcraft/sorcery was a technology and 2) there was a definite distinction between good magic and bad magic.

This changed drastically during the fifteenth century, the time when the forces of nature ran amok, and most certainly, someone had to be blamed when it was all over! Protestantism was on the rise and it was not seen as politic to go after the Mother Church which still held a great deal of power, so some other sin-bearer had to be found. The distinction between good and bad magic vanished and witchcraft became something purely evil. The pluralistic conception of the supernatural world also vanished and we were left with only a very good god who was, however, seemingly impotent in the face of evil mankind in cahoots with a very evil devil. Well, not exactly "mankind," mostly "woman-kind"!

One of the results of this change in attitude was the creation of witchcraft as a systematic anti-religion; it became the opposite of everything that Christianity - both Catholic and Protestant - stood for. Witchcraft as an elaborated system of religion was unknown before the fifteenth century. This was a period in which a theory of supernatural demons was invented and crystallized as an explanation for the evils that fell upon mankind. How else to explain the Black Death which killed indiscriminately in spite of the prayers and supplications of the priests of the Christian church, both Catholic and Protestant?

Another point to note is that witches were no longer thought of as beings that could use a technology to control the powers of nature; they became beings that channeled evil into the world because they were under the control of the Evil One. They were all purely Satan's puppets and no good could ever come from them. The Malleus Maleficarum specifically mentions that "witchcraft is chiefly found in women" because they are more credulous and have poor memories", and because "witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable". (Sprenger and Kramer, Malleus Maleficarum, 1968, pp. 41-48)

In short, "witch myth" was created in the late 1400s in reaction to the Black Death which consisted of a whole, coherent system of beliefs, assumptions, rituals, and "sacred texts" that had never existed until this time. The Dominicans developed and popularized the conceptions of demonology and witchcraft as a negative image of the so-called "true faith" and the Protestants were just as busy!

When Kramer and Sprenger (both members of the Dominican Order and Inquisitors for the Catholic Church) wrote the Malleus Maleficarum and submitted it to the University of Cologne's Faculty of Theology on May 9, 1487, seeking its endorsement, it was roundly condemned as unethical and illegal. The Catholic Church banned the book in 1490, placing it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. In order to understand why, again we have to back up a bit.

After the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity, many missionaries, on finding that the pagans had their own spectrum of local deities and beliefs, often sought to convert them by the simple expedient of canonizing the local gods so that the natives population could continue to worship them under the aegis of Christianity. They became "Christian saints" complete with invented hagiographies. The old temples were converted into churches so that the pagans would come to familiar places of worship to hear mass and pray to their "saints" just like always. Magical practices were tolerated because it was felt that the people would give them up naturally over time once they had become truly Christian.

Official church policy held that any belief in witchcraft was an illusion. In the famous, but mysterious, Canon episcopi, we read:
Some wicked women, perverted by the devil, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess themselves in the hours of night, to ride upon certain beastes with Diana, the goddess of pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights. But I wish it were they alone who perished in their faithlessness and did not draw many with them into the destruction of infidelity. For an innumerable multitude, deceived by this false opinion, believe this to be true, and so believing, wander from the right faith and are invalued in the error of the pagans...

Wherefore the priests throughout their churches should preach with all insistence ... that they know this to be false and, that such phantasms are imposed and sent by the malignant spirit... who deludes them in dreams...

Who is there who is not led out of himself in dreams, seeing such in sleeping which he never sees [when] waking? ...

And who is so stupid and foolish as to think that all these things, which are only done in spirit happen in the body?

It is therefore to be proclaimed publicly to all that whoever believes such things... has lost his faith.

(Translated by Kors and Peters, pp. 29-31. The origin of this document is not clear. Kors and Peters (1972) date it to 1140. It has been attributed to an obscure meeting, the Council of Anquira, held possibly in the 4th century. Although there is no record of this council, the statement on witchcraft was adopted by later canonists as official policy. Ben-Yehuda, 1985)
So, for more than six centuries, this was the official attitude of the church toward witches - that it was an illusion or delusion or just the product of dreams. It was even declared:
"Whoever was 'so stupid and foolish' as to believe such fantastic tales was an infidel."
In 1450, 100 years after the Black Death had destroyed about half of Europe's population, the Hundred Years' War was coming to an end and someone had to be blamed, (definitely NOT cometary explosions!), and the so-called Renaissance was kicking off, Jean Vineti, Inquisitor at Carcassone, identified witchcraft with heresy. In 1458, Nicholas Jacquier, Inquisitor in France and Bohemia, identified it as a NEW form of heresy. When Jacquier wrote his book on witchcraft, he had to dispose of the Canon episcopi first. Other writers of the time also found it necessary to diminish this official church policy in order to even have a "witch craze." So, the first attacks were made on the validity of the document itself. Then, contemporary witches were claimed to be different from the ones that the document was about. In 1460, Visconti Girolamo, Inquisitor professor, Provincial of Lombardy, stated that the act of defending witchcraft (or witches) was itself heresy. In 1484-86, Sprenger and Kramer published the Malleus which explicated a crystallized theory of witchcraft which held sway for three hundred years. Johannes Gutenberg's printing press - a product of the Renaissance - allowed the work to spread rapidly throughout Europe. This crystallization is what resulted in the beginning of the witch craze itself.

Taking into account the wars of the time killing off so much of the male population, one might suppose that there was in increase in unmarried women. In short, women were becoming autonomous widows as a consequence. So, a couple of psychopathic types (psychopaths always seem to really hate women - dunno why, but there it is) - Sprenger and Kramer et al - came along and got hostile about it and wrote a book describing a healthy, competent, intelligent woman as a witch, and presto! Problem solved. All the excess women can be gotten rid of; all the autonomous women with property can be done away with and their property confiscated; and, at the same time, the psychological control of men over women, re-establishing the subservience of women and the Church, can all be accomplished in one fell swoop! I think a strong factor in the witch trials was also psychopathy - Ponerology. Those guys who wrote the Malleus sound like your typical schizoidal psychopath. Devilishly clever, I say! (One also has to consider the destruction of many genetic lines of powerful women in this process which has been ongoing, so it seems.)

Again, we note that the most spectacular "witch" was Joan of Arc who was tried, condemned, and burned in 1431, three years before Europe's mass panic over witches started in Valais where over 100 people were tried by secular judges - not religious - for "murder by sorcery." As the craze spread over Europe, literally hundreds of thousands of women were burned at the stake. Children, women, and even whole families were sent to be burned. The historical sources are full of horrifying descriptions of the tortures these poor people were subjected to. Entire villages were exterminated. One account says that all of Germany was covered with stakes and Germans were entirely occupied with building bonfires to burn the victims. One inquisitor is reported to have said: "I wish [the witches] had but one body, so that we could burn them all at once, in one fire!" (Trevor-Roper 1967, p. 152).

In the 1580s, the Catholic Counter-Reformation became dedicated witch hunters, going after Protestants, mainly. In France, most witches happened to be Huguenot. There were many cases of "political" executions in the guise of witch burnings. One victim was a judge who was burned in 1628 for showing "suspicious leniency". As the craze spread, the viciousness and barbarity of the attacks increased. The judge just mentioned, a Dr. Haan, under torture, confessed to having seen five burgomasters of Bamberg at the witches Sabbath, and they, too were executed. One of them, a Johannes Julius, under torture, confessed that he had renounced God, given himself to the devil, and seen twenty-seven of his colleagues at the Sabbath. But afterward, from prison, he contrived to smuggle a letter out to his daughter, Veronica, giving a full account of his trial. He wrote:
"Now my dearest child, you have here all my acts and confessions, for which I must die. It is all falsehood and invention, so help me God... They never cease to torture until one says something. If God sends no means of briging the truth to light our whole kindred will be burnt." (Trevor-Roper 1967, p. 157)
Protestants and Catholics accused each other and the early decades of the 1600s were infected by a veritable epidemic of demons! This lasted until the end of the Thirty Years' War. It is said that if the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum was the beginning of the terror, the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was the end. In recent times, the Malleus has been examined critically, though not by individuals with any awareness of the cosmic events of the time. Nevertheless, what they have observed has a bearing on our subject here: Sexy Devils
One evening 10 years ago, Walter Stephens was reading Malleus malificarum. The Malleus, as scholars refer to it, would not be everyone's choice for a late-night book. Usually translated as The Hammer of Witches, it was first published in Germany in 1487 as a handbook for witch hunters during the Inquisition. It's a chilling text - - used for 300 years, well into the Age of Reason -- that justifies and details the identification, apprehension, interrogation, and execution of people accused of consorting with demons, signing pacts with the devil, and performing maleficia, or harmful magic.

"It was 11 at night," Stephens recalls. "My wife had gone to bed, and on the first page [of the Malleus] was this weird sentence about people who don't believe in witches and don't believe in demons: 'Therefore those err who say that there is no such thing as witchcraft, but that it is purely imaginary, even although they do not believe that devils exist except in the imagination of the ignorant and vulgar, and the natural accidents which happen to man he wrongly attributes to some supposed devil.'"

That convoluted sentence dovetailed with a curious line Stephens knew from Il messaggiero, a work from 1582 by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso: "If magicians and witches and the possessed exist, demons exist; but it cannot be doubted that in every age specimens of the former three have been found: thus it is unreasonable to doubt that demons are found in nature."

Stephens, the Charles S. Singleton Professor of Italian Studies in the Hopkins department of romance languages, is a literary critic, and he sensed that something intriguing was going on beneath the text on the page. Tasso, and especially the Malleus' author, a Dominican theologian and inquisitor named Heinrich Kramer, had in their works invested a striking amount of energy in refuting doubt about the existence of demons. What was that about?

For the next eight years Stephens read every treatise he could find on witchcraft, as well as accounts of interrogations, theological tracts, and other works (his bibliography lists 154 primary and more than 200 secondary sources). Most of the 86 witchcraft treatises he cites had been written in western Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, and one after another (including the Malleus) contain accounts of sexual intercourse with satanic spirits. Why? Were the authors remorseless misogynists hellbent on portraying women in the worst possible light? Were they lurid, repressed celibates who got off by writing accounts of demon sex? Stephens didn't think so; the texts, in his view, didn't support that reading. Elsewhere in the Malleus he had found a key reference to accused witches under torture as being "expert witnesses to the reality of carnal interaction between humans and demons." These guys are trying to construct proofs that demons exist, he thought. They're trying to convince skeptics. And then he thought, They're trying to convince themselves.

Stephens' thesis profoundly revises the conventional wisdom about centuries of cruelty and injustice. The great European witch hunts, he says, were the outgrowth of a severe crisis of faith. The men who wrote books like the Malleus, men who endorsed the torture and burning of tens of thousands of innocent people, desperately needed to believe in witches, because if witches were real, then demons were real, and if demons were real, then God was real. Not just real but present and attentive. Carefully read the works composed by the witchcraft authors, Stephens says, and you will see how profoundly disturbed these educated, literate men were by their accumulating suspicions that if God existed at all, He wasn't paying much attention to the descendants of Adam. [...]

The sanctioned, organized pursuit and persecution of witches, which peaked from 1560 to 1630 and was almost entirely a western European phenomenon, began during a time of grave concern in the Roman Catholic church. The European world in the early 1400s was a wreck. The preceding century has been labeled by historian Barbara Tuchman as "calamitous," and she does not overstate. Starting around 1315, a great famine ravaged much of western Europe. From 1347 to 1352, the Black Death killed more than a third of the continent's population. Other diseases and additional outbreaks of the plague scourged the weakened survivors. As if natural catastrophe weren't enough, England and France chose to fight the Hundred Years' War from 1337 to 1453, the longest war in history. The Church itself fractured, riven by massive organized heresies, and by a schism that led to as many as three men simultaneously laying claim to be the true pope. How could a world created by a watchful, benevolent, and engaged God be such a mess?
Indeed. The calamities of that time - of ANY time - assault religious faith. And anyone who talks about such calamities in a reasonable and factual way as just what Nature does, and who back it up with scientific data, MUST be silenced because they threaten the very foundation of Western Civilization: Christianity and Uniformitarianism and Fascist control of humanity!

It seems that such persecutions may very well have been initiated as a way of controlling those who uttered "heresies" against the "providential" order of the universe established by the Church and State, like pointing out that an increased number of fireballs and comet sightings may very well suggest that the planet and its inhabitants are in potential danger. This was the period of Galileo, after all, and he was accused of being a "heretic" for not supporting the potency of God Almighty. Nowadays, that's the same as being accused of being a "cult". We notice, also, as mentioned above, that the Church is regressing into the same mindset that held sway during other "eschatological" periods.

What strikes me as particularly funny is the way the US school of Asteroid Impacts is going about this. Apparently, under the influence of the British school of cometary bombardment, they are thinking about all of these things. It also seems highly likely that the entire War on Terror is a distraction from what is really going on "out there." Anyway, from a recent conference: AIAA 2007 Planetary Defense Conference we note what is agitating them most:
An asteroid impact could occur anywhere on the globe at any time, so planetary defense has implications for all humankind. All nations on Earth should be prepared for this potential calamity and work together to prevent or contain the damage. That said, there is currently very little discussion or coordination of efforts at national or international levels. No single agency in any country has responsibility for moving forward on NEO deflection, and disaster control agencies have not simulated this type of disaster.

Providing funding over the long term was also seen as a challenge. Much of the work in virtually all areas of planetary defense has been done on individuals' own time and initiative. There is a need for ongoing studies and peer-reviewed papers to improve our knowledge in this area, as well as to increase the credibility of the issue and the public's trust in our ability to respond. The reality is that NEO deflection or disaster mitigation efforts may not be required for decades or longer, so governments, which are focused on more immediate concerns, may not be willing to commit sufficient recourses to this type of work. Determining the appropriate level of this work and funding such activities over the long term is seen as a major issue.

In addition, major legal and policy issues related to planetary defense need to be resolved. An example is liability for predictions that prove false or deflection missions that only partially work or fail completely, resulting in an impact. Other examples include:

· A prediction is made that an impact may occur in a specific area, and residents and businesses that might be affected leave. Are there liabilities associated with the loss in property values if the prediction is wrong?

· A nation makes a deflection attempt, but it fails to change the object's orbit enough to miss Earth. Is that nation now responsible for the damage inflicted?

· A NEO threat demands the nuclear option, but public perception is that the possibility of a launch failure and subsequent damage is more acute than the threat from the NEO. What are the liabilities and political and policy implications associated with a launch failure during a deflection mission?

These types of issues should be discussed and resolved before they are raised by a serious threat.
Yup, that's what they are worried about! Legal liability!


Well, anyway, at the end of the Hundred Years War and the Black Death, the Witch Persecutions were utilized to hush up completely any hint that the Earth was not securely hung in space, and history and truth was suppressed with blood and burning human flesh.