July 18, 2014 at 7:53 am

Randall Carlson: The Making of a Catastrophist – Part 1

Randall Carlson amidst the Swan Falls Boulder Bar
Randall Carlson amidst the Swan Falls Boulder Bar

I spent most of my youth in rural Minnesota. The area where we lived, about 10 miles northwest of Minneapolis, was a rolling mosaic of hills, pasture, forest, meadow, agricultural fields, and countless lakes. The landscape was the product of the great ice age which came to an end only about 10 thousand years ago. The many hills were piles of earth and glacial till heaped up by the fluctuating glacier margin that advanced and retreated multiple times across the region. The many lakes were puddles of meltwater left over from the final retreat and melting away of the vast ice sheets that reached from more or less my back yard northward for some 2 thousand miles to beyond the Arctic Circle and all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. At times the area where I lived was buried under more than a thousand feet of ice. 1000 miles to the north, over central Canada and around the region of Hudson Bay, the ice grew to be some two miles in thickness.

We lived on the shores of one of those tens of thousands of meltwater lakes spread across Minnesota and Wisconsin. The lake was about three quarters of mile in length and a half mile across and was named Schmidt Lake after two Schmidt families that owned neighboring farms. The two lane gravel road that passed by the lake and in front of our house was called Schmidt’s Crossroad. At first, there was only our house and the two farms bordering the lake. As a youth I would fish for bass, sunfish and bullheads (Minnesota’s catfish) from my backyard. Not more than a hundred feet or so from our property a large boulder, perhaps six feet in diameter, sat right at waters’ edge. Sometimes I would fish from this rock, other times I would leap on top of it to fight off imaginary monsters with my sword, which was usually just a stick I had picked up in the woods. Not infrequently I would wonder why that single boulder was sitting there in imposing isolation. I have no idea if it is still there and I don’t know from whence it ultimately came, but wherever that may have been I know now the means by which it was conveyed from its place of origin to its final resting place. It is, or was, what geologists call a glacial erratic, a boulder quarried from bedrock and carried by the advancing glacier perhaps many hundreds of miles from its source, to be deposited in a location far removed from its origin. Erratics are typically composed of a different type of rock than the local bedrock, which is a clear indication that their present location is a consequence of transport over some considerable distance.

I spent many hours of my growing up years swimming and canoeing in those Minnesota meltwater lakes, traversing her countryside by foot, by bicycle and on horseback, hiking and camping in her forests and meadows, but with only a vague conception of the mighty forces of which they were the product. There were days, usually summer days, where I might wander off for hours at a time in solitude, just enjoying the peace and beauty of the pastoral countryside in which I found myself immersed.

Frequently I would make my way to the top a broadly sloping hill near to where I lived, from which I could gaze down and around upon the expansive countryside. If it was early summer the fields of wheat and alfalfa swayed in the wind giving the impression of waves on an ocean of green speckled with countless numbers of lavender flowers. From this vantage point I could observe, nestled within the rolling hills, the brilliant blue of Schmidt Lake below, embellished with dancing sparkles of reflected sunlight. Overhead vast armadas of cumulous clouds would march in stately, majestic procession, always it seemed, from the west, traveling toward the east. They would regularly transit across the face of the Sun casting shadows upon the Earth below that raced over the land in synchronized movement with the clouds above, adding to the impression that the entire landscape was dynamically alive and in motion. The Sun would frequently break through the clouds in glorious, golden rays that would pour down in shimmering columns of light over the land. Sometimes I would get the sense that the whole vista spread out before my eyes was a vast, living work of art, that it was both concealing and revealing some hidden meaning, some deep mystery that awaited discovery and explanation. It was during these times that I would succumb to a state that I could only describe as rapturous. It seemed at times as if my mind would expand to fill the whole of the world within my purview, and for a few moments during these episodes I had the sense that time itself stood still.

Now, long after I have grown and moved to other parts, the Midwestern landscapes of my youth have left an indelible imprint on my psyche. From these early experiences I entered into a sort of dialogue with the Earth which continues unabated to this day. This dialogue has involved thousands of hours spent in the field, traversing and studying a wide variety of landscapes along with thousands of hours in the study of various sciences related in one way or another to the goal of understanding this extraordinary planet upon which we are engaged in this ongoing human experience.

The more I have learned over the years the more I realized that we can take nothing for granted. The leisurely pace that has characterized planetary change during recent history has frequently been interrupted by events that have profoundly altered the trajectory of both natural and human events. In the series of articles I have contributed over the last year or so one of the prevailing themes has pertained to global change. I made a preliminary case that a fundamental idea of the Grail Mythos deals directly with the utilization of natural forces of cosmic origin towards the rejuvenation of Nature in the aftermath of environmental catastrophe.

I believe that one of the most critically important insights into the modern human condition on planet Earth involves recognition that sometimes profoundly disruptive events can radically alter the balance of nature with severe consequences for the stability of civilization, totally independent of the actions of humankind. The evidence for ancient catastrophes is everywhere about us, but goes largely unrecognized simply because the scale of this phenomenon is so vast.

One of the founding fathers of the modern science of climatology, Hermann Flohn, after a lifetime of study of the climate, wrote in 1984:

“Climate –even under its natural development alone- varies continually. Each year, each decade, each century, each millennium, since long before any question of impact of human activity…It is important to gauge the magnitudes and time-scales of these variations, since planning should not be based on expectations of return to some non-existent norm. And the magnitude and extent of any changes attributable to Man’s activities –or even whether any such effects are occurring on more than a local scale- cannot be determined without knowing the range, and the likely timing, of changes due to natural causes.” The Climate of Europe: Past, Present and Future, p. 25

These words need to pondered deeply by anyone who presumes to have an opinion on the subject of climate change, especially by those committed to promoting the scenario of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

My studies in planetary change began in earnest during the mid to late 1970s. When I learned in the early 1990s that the United Nations was going to promote an unprecedented scientific investigation into the causes of climate and environmental change I was encouraged that the vital question as to the cause of these great climatic upheavals in the history of the Earth would be tackled. Needless to say I was dismayed when I began to realize that the new government sanctioned and funded climate bureaucracy had no intention of addressing the kind of extreme natural climate and environmental upheavals that had occurred throughout history and prehistory independent of human involvement, but was, instead, directed to focus exclusively upon the human contribution, and then to focus solely on carbon dioxide as the driver of climate change. Since the advent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its excessive influence on the science of climate change it has become typical to denigrate anyone who questions the “consensus” that carbon dioxide is the sole or even the dominant driver of climate change. I think it is critically important that we examine the assumptions and claims made by those who clearly stand to gain by the implementation of carbon remediation measures as well as some of the dissenting voices who are trying to remind us that climate has always changed, without help from humans, and sometimes those entirely natural changes have been extreme and catastrophic, and, I would suggest, we ignore such natural change at our peril.

I have remarked on the countless thousands of glacial meltwater lakes that cover the upper Midwest, where I spent most of the first 23 years of my life. The geomorphic evidence of extreme climate change lay everywhere about me. It was only after I reached my adult years that I developed an abiding interest in geology, the science by which one can decipher the extraordinary history of the Earth that I learned to “read” the landscape and to understand the story it had to tell.

Initially, in my first youthful exposure to the subject matter of geology I came away with the impression that the whole thing seemed rather boring. After all, the study of processes that occur so slowly and gradually, one drop of water or one grain of sand at a time, that they are largely invisible to the human perspective, are not the kind of thing to provoke the excitement and curiosity of a typical, rambunctious teenage boy. In all the media, whether books, television, or the classroom, everything that occurred in the geological realm was described as taking millions of years, the words “gradually” and “slowly” were invoked over and over again to describe the formation of mountains, the building up of a seashore, the erosion of canyons and so on.

As a kid I could get lost for hours at a time gazing into a wonderful 3-dimensional world inside my small plastic View-Master.

However, the seeds of a different perspective had been planted in my brain early on. For my fifth birthday I was given a “View-Master,” a very popular toy in the 1950s and 60s. I would bet that most baby boomers had one growing up. The View-Master was a stereoscope that utilized circular reels with paired images on color film that allowed the viewer to view scenes in 3D. As a kid I could get lost for hours at a time gazing into a wonderful 3-dimensional world inside my small plastic View-Master. Among my collection of reels were a number of nature topics and travelogues, National Parks and so on as well as a series of stories that included things like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Tales of the Arabian Nights and a certain Tom Corbett Space Cadet. (for an interesting aside on this see www.enterprisemission.com/corbett.htm)

Space Cadet Tom Corbett discovering a Tetrahedron on the Moon
Space Cadet Tom Corbett discovering a Tetrahedron on the Moon

My favorite set of View-Master reels was a series of 21 dinosaur scenes animated by the great Ray Harryhausen for the 1956 film The Animal World. I suspect that the climax of this story was my first exposure to the imagery and idea of Catastrophism. After depicting an encounter and impending battle between a Triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus Rex the narrative story accompanying the reels suddenly shifts gears and introduces the imagery of Catastrophism:

“The sky reddened suddenly then a quivering of the earth threw the king lizard off balance for just a second . . . The king of the earth had been betrayed by the shaking of the very earth itself . . . Just then a booming roar shook the air and the very sky caught fire! Even the battling monsters froze in the middle of their fight to the death. An unknown fear gripping their primitive emotions they looked around at their once familiar world. The earth under their feet rose and fell like the waves of the sea. The blue of the sky had vanished in a blood red deluge of light, and the silence was broken by the booming of vast explosions in the distance . . . Mountains blew their tops. Flowing lava engulfed many dinosaurs and ashes killed the plants . . . The doom of the dinosaurs was at hand. . . Winter came back to the world. ”

Cretaceous catastrophe The Animal World
“The sky reddened suddenly then a quivering of the earth threw the king lizard off balance for just a second . . . The king of the earth had been betrayed by the shaking of the very earth itself . . . Just then a booming roar shook the air and the very sky caught fire!

This imagery was depicted in the final several frames of the View-Master reels in full 3-dimensional color. I have no idea how many times I visited and revisited this tale of the Mesozoic Era and its calamitous end, but it was certainly in the dozens. It made such an acute impression on me that these reels and my original viewer are the only things I have managed to preserve from that time long ago. Remember, in the year 1956 a strict gradualism dominated geological and paleontological thinking. In retrospect it would appear that Irwin Allen, the mastermind behind the production of The Animal World, was a Catastrophist. Almost a quarter century later, in the year 1980, hard scientific evidence would be discovered that led to the formulation of a scenario almost identical to Allen’s and a realization that the demise of the dinosaurs was indeed a catastrophic event of global proportions. All Irwin’s story was lacking was an explicit reference to an asteroid or comet impact. All the other elements were there, including the last stage of the violent Cretaceous-Tertiary catastrophe—cosmic winter.

The written narrative of the story concluded with these compelling and enticing words:

“The total disappearance of the dinosaur is one of the great mysteries of all time . . . Their complete extinction cannot be explained. This whole race of reptiles which dominated the face of the earth, its waters and its atmosphere for a hundred times as long as the short span of man on earth – this whole race died out leaving not one single descendant!”

With these words the seeds of curiosity were planted in my mind, eventually to bear fruit decades later. Looking back it almost seems that my whole life was largely being programmed by an abiding interest in various subjects stimulated by the subject matter of these View-Master reels. By the time I reached middle school I had read most everything by Jules Verne; I had read everything I could get my hands on related to mythology, Greek, Norse and Arabic; I consumed lots of science fiction; I developed a lifelong interest in Astronomy, and an obsessive interest in dinosaurs and their extinction that persisted into my young adult years. My fascination with dinosaurs receded towards the end of the 1960s as my interest shifted into explorations of consciousness and the study of various metaphysical and spiritual traditions. However, my interest in mythology persisted and I became familiar with authors such as Robert Graves, Edith Hamilton, James Frazier, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Frank Waters, and others.

As anyone who has spent any time in the study of Mythology knows, one of the recurrent themes from all over the world is the inclusion of catastrophism of one kind or another. In reading the stories of Thor and Loki, Odin and Freya I encountered the tale of Ragnarok, or “The Twilight of the Gods” that describes the great, final battle of the gods and the destruction of the world by fire and water through the action of the mighty Midgaard serpent and the vicious Fenrir wolf. In reading Greek Mythology I became familiar with the tale of Deucalion and Pyrrha who survived a massive flood by building an ark, and Phaeton, son of Phoebus the Sun god, who, in attempting to drive his father’s chariot, fell from the ecliptic pathway and set the world on fire. And of course I attended enough Sunday School to have heard the story of Noah and the deluge that drowned the world.

In reading the stories of the Arabian Nights as a youth I had no idea then that they were cleverly disguised Alchemical allegories nor that Jules Verne had encoded the symbolism of the Mysteries and certain esoteric traditions in his tales of visionary science.

However, as important as the things I was learning through reading were to my emerging interest in Catastrophism, exposure to various geological features in the region where I spent my formative years was equally important. I have already described the influence of living on a glacial meltwater lake and the evolving sense that that there was meaning and significance in the landscapes surrounding me.

St. Croix Falls, early Sum
Myself and two friends along the St. Croix River, Spring of 1969. I am the fellow in the middle. The turbulent waters of the late glacial floods sweeping through this gorge severely plucked and quarried the basalt bedrock. The outcrop on which we are perched is a remnant of this catastrophic quarrying. The great potholes described below are on the rocky outcrops on the opposite side of the river.

One of the places I regularly visited was near Taylor’s Falls on the St. Croix River which forms a section of the state boundary line between Minnesota and Wisconsin. This segment of river is now part of Interstate Park, a park encompassing both states, the first interstate parkland collaboration in America. It is also part of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and is one of the sites designated as part of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve.

At this location the river flows through a prominent gash in the basalt bedrock that is now exposed on both sides of the river. On the Minnesota side, bored into the bedrock some 50 or 60 feet above the present river level, are a series of massive potholes. Some of the potholes are up to twenty feet wide and eighty feet deep, they are, in fact, some of the largest known potholes on Earth. Potholes on any significant scale, drilled into solid rock, are not being formed on Earth today. They are the product of extreme turbulence in a gigantic flood that swept through this region at the close of the last Ice Age. It must be appreciated that these extraordinary features were not produced by any flood such as has been experienced in historical times. As a small child they were just big holes in the rock that my mother or grandmother would tell me not to stand too close to. As I got older I actually started to wonder about their origin. Eventually, years later, I did come to understand the process that could drill gigantic holes into hard basalt bedrock .

Taylors Falls giant pothole
Looking out from inside one of the great potholes at Taylor’s Falls, Minnesota

Another place visited several times in my youth, and indelibly stamped into my memory, was the Wisconsin Dells. This is a unique locale in which floods of enormous scale carved an unusual and striking series of sandstone cliffs along the banks of the Wisconsin River. Again, it was not until I was in my adult years and became more knowledgeable of geology that I understood that here was a local manifestation of the same extraordinary series of fluvial events that had created the giant potholes at Taylor’s Falls more than 180 miles to the northwest. I also came to realize that the powerful agency responsible for these formations was not something that acted millions of years ago, as was the case with the dinosaur extinction events, rather here were phenomenon that occurred a mere instant ago in the geological timescale, in an epoch immediately preceding the emergence of human civilization.

Wisconsin Dells
Deeply scoured and etched sandstone bluffs along the Wisconsin River, eroded by catastrophic meltwater floods. Note undercutting of the caprock.

I now understand that these two places that were so special to my youth were, in fact, the product of tremendous world events that terminated the previous planetary age and signaled the catastrophic birth of the present world age. I now understand that Taylors Falls and the Wisconsin Dells are but two members of a suite of thousands of features encompassing the globe that yield mute testimony to profound climate and environmental changes happening in the very recent geological past, changes that utterly dwarf anything experienced in historical times and are completely and conspicuously absent from the contemporary models and discussions of climate change that seek to lay the blame for all change at the feet of human beings.

In this essay I have been writing about my gradually awakening awareness of the Earth’s catastrophic history. Throughout my youth there were a number of places, which, looking back, I can clearly see stimulated my interest in the events that shaped the landscapes of the world around me. I have described the influence of the glacially sculpted environment where I spent my growing up years and two locations I visited on multiple occasions that, unbeknownst to me at the time, were the product of massive, catastrophic floods at the close of the last great Ice Age, a time geologists would call the Pleistocene – Holocene transition.

Another noteworthy experience that set in motion the thought processes that eventually led to my awareness of Catastrophism occurred early in the summer of 1969. I was fresh out of high school and one of my favorite things to do was to go to rock concerts. (And there were some good ones back in 1969). Just south of Minneapolis was a small county airport called Flying Cloud Airport, outside of a town named Eden Prairie. During that summer there were a series of outdoor, daytime rock concerts and general tribal gatherings either on or immediately adjacent to airport property, I don’t remember which. What is important though is the fact that the airport sits on the level surface of a series of bluffs overlooking the Minnesota River Valley, not too far from its junction with the Mississippi River. On one particular day, I remember it was a gorgeous day at that, during a break in the music, I strolled away from the crowd and wandered over to the edge of the bluffs, which here were some 150 feet in height, in order to look out over the river and its valley. As I stood there taking in the scene, without realizing it, I came to my first awareness of Scale Invariance, a concept that has continued to grow in importance as my understanding of natural phenomenon has grown. What I saw was this: down below me on the floor of the valley was the winding Minnesota River. The river has an average discharge of about 4,400 cubic feet per second and in the vicinity of my point of observation it is about 250 feet wide. As I gazed down I noticed that the river flowed within a distinct channel that was somewhat larger than the river itself. However, looking out across the valley, which here was more than 6,000 feet wide, I saw a set of bluffs on the other side that matched the bluffs upon which I stood. The insight which at that moment impressed itself upon my consciousness was that this imposing valley of the Minnesota River spread out in front of me was a vastly larger version of the channel in which the river itself now flowed. The implication that I then intuited, but only came to understand rationally years later, was that the modern river was but a diminutive relic of a gigantic ancient river that had carved the valley in its totality.

Allow me to digress for a moment. In the early 1980s I was teaching one of my first classes on Sacred Geometry. One of the important bedrock principles of this ancient tradition concerns the harmonic relations amongst the parts of a composition and the whole of the composition. This idea can be recognized by a consistency of form and proportion linking the part with the whole, so that the geometry of the whole is reflected in the parts and vice versa. An ancient Greek term for this principle was Eurhythmy. A modern term is fractal self-similarity. Another term that applies is Scale Invariance, meaning that the pattern of the whole can be discerned in the parts, that the pattern is invariant regardless of the scale. This is the basic geometric concept manifest in sacred art and architecture. It is also a principle that continually appears in the realm of geology. Many of the forms and features of the natural world, most especially in geology, are scale invariant. This is why in virtually all photographs of geological subjects some object, typically a rock hammer or a person, is placed in the photograph to provide a sense of scale.

Anyways, in this particular class I was discussing the importance of Scale Invariance in geometry and made reference to its occurrence in geology. As an example I told how I first became aware of the concept through my observation of the Minnesota River valley and its relation to the much smaller channel enclosing the modern river, how they appeared to be larger and smaller versions of each other, with the implication that a giant river once flowed over the land. A member of the class who had a background in geology interrupted me to explain that the larger valley was the product of slow erosion over “millions of years” by a river not necessarily any bigger than the modern river. I disagreed but had not made the studies, nor had sufficient command of the facts to make a convincing argument in support of my belief that the valley had been carved by a river of enormous proportions. This student was satisfied that he had educated me as to the error of my ways regarding this issue, but I remained convinced that my intuition was correct.

In the years since then I have made exhaustive studies of various aspects of geology, majored in geology in college and have spent 1000s of hours in the field studying all kinds of geological features, most especially those produced fluvially, that is, by flowing water. I can state without the slightest equivocation that I was completely correct in my assumption that the valley of the Minnesota River was indeed the erosional product of a truly massive water flow. Even mainstream geologists now recognize the fact and have given to this mighty ancient river the name River Warren. Calculations based upon the size and slope of the channel indicate that at maximum discharge River Warren flowed with a volume of about 12 million cubic feet per second, or about two thousand seven hundred times the volume of the modern Minnesota River.


1/24,000 scale topographic map of the Minnesota River Valley near Flying Cloud Airport. The great disparity in size between the modern Minnesota River and the enormous valley of ancient River Warren in which it flows is clearly discernable. The arrow points to the spot upon which I stood when I first became aware of the concept of Scale Invariance in the summer of 1969.

That day in the early summer of 1969 marks a major milestone in my intellectual life. Standing on that bluff, looking out into the grand, imposing valley spread before me, a seed of awareness was planted – the first glimmer of an awakening to an invisible geological “matrix” if you will – a realization that superimposed upon the modern world we inhabit, the planetary stage upon which all the petty dramas of modern life are playing out, is the imprint of an immense cosmic event preserved in the landscapes of the Earth, an event that marks the great dividing line of human history, and that the key to perceiving this matrix lies in the principle of Scale Invariance.

The Minnesota River is an example of what geologists call an underfit stream, or river. This is a river that is diminutive in relation to the channel in which it is conveyed. There are literally thousands of underfit streams and rivers across North America and around the world. These oversize channels are not the product of slow erosion over many millions of years but are instead the result of enormous, short-lived, catastrophic floods.

From whence came these colossal floods?

At the close of the last great Ice Age, between about 13 thousand and 10 thousand years ago the massive ice sheets that mantled more than half of North America began to undergo an inexplicably rapid retreat. As the ice receded towards its nucleus over Hudson Bay extreme meltwater floods discharged from multiple points along the ice margin and vast temporary lakes formed adjacent to the melting ice mass. The greatest of these lakes was called Glacial Lake Agassiz, named after Louis Agassiz, a preeminent 19th century geologist who was largely responsible for convincing the scientific community that ice ages were a real part of Earth history. The lake at its maximum extent covered some 170 thousand square miles and was larger than all of the Great Lakes put together; in fact, it held more water than the total volume of every lake on the Earth today. It was the rapid draining of this lake that supplied the water of River Warren. The same draining also supplied a substantial portion of the flood water that created the giant potholes along the St. Croix River described above.

So, at least three different places that I enjoyed visiting as a youth were the product of tremendous planetary environmental changes. In my adult years I have pursued my interest in Earth change with a consuming passion. What I have learned has convinced me that we inhabit an extraordinarily dynamic planet, one that has undergone profound changes on a scale far exceeding anything within recent times. In fact, I now realize that what we think of as history is merely the record of human events that have transpired since that last great planetary catastrophe. I also understand that the imprint of these catastrophes is to be found all around us, in virtually every environment, and we are just beginning to be able to perceive and to decipher the evidence.

What tremendous forces of nature are responsible for driving the planet into and out of a succession of several dozen ice ages over the last couple of million years? What could have provoked several well documented global warming episodes at the end of the last ice age that were of a magnitude 10 to 15 times greater than the warming that has occurred since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and that transpired in less than five years? These questions regarding catastrophic, entirely natural climate change have not yet been answered. It is for this reason that the claim that the science of climate change is settled, that the debate is over, or that there exists an unchallenged consensus of opinion, must be recognized for what it is – a self-serving propaganda ploy in the service of a political agenda. It seems that amongst many of the factions promoting fear of anthropogenic climate change, their actual knowledge is in inverse proportion to their hysteria. If you doubt the truth of this statement do this – next time a well-meaning but uninformed person claims that the debate about climate change is settled, that there is an unequivocal consensus amongst scientists, ask him or her what causes the planet to succumb to the thoroughly well documented, extreme oscillations of climate that characterize the onset or termination of an ice age. Ask them what process instigated the Bolling Allerod-Younger Dryas climate catastrophe, or the Younger Dryas-Preboreal climate catastrophe 1300 years later. Don’t expect to receive any kind of an informed response.

[pullquote]The truth of the matter is that our understanding of climate change is in its infancy and to claim otherwise is a dangerous delusion.

The truth of the matter is that our understanding of climate change is in its infancy and to claim otherwise is a dangerous delusion.

Here’s one final matter to consider. The record of climate change that has now been accurately reconstructed from a wide variety of proxies reveals that warm interglacials, such as the one we now enjoy, are relatively short lived affairs. In fact it appears that the Holocene epoch, the present period of interglacial warmth during which civilization has emerged, now going on 10 thousand years in length, may be the longest span of interglacial warmth of the last quarter million years.

The historical record is clear on one thing – global cooling is much worse than global warming to human society. I will be addressing this matter in more detail in another essay. But for now I will say this: The ever improving reconstruction of past climate reveals that it is constantly changing, it is either undergoing warming or cooling in a range of magnitude exceeding the changes of climate documented during the past century and a half. At no time, in fact, on any time scale, is climate found to be stable. There is no ideal baseline of stability to which we can return.

The evidence proving the reality of mighty catastrophes is scattered all about the face of the Earth, it is everywhere about us. To one who can read the geological record the story revealed is one of repeated world destructions, catastrophe layered upon catastrophe, one world built upon and out of the wreckage of former worlds. The sobering thing to ponder is that the wreckage of the previous world, the one whose destruction and disappearance from the planetary stage cleared the way for the commencement of the present age, is only 10,000 years old. The transition out of the last great ice age, the transition from the Pleistocene Epoch to the Holocene, involved a series of planetary convulsions of almost inconceivable violence and power. With only a few exceptions, the fact that an event of this magnitude stands at the threshold of recorded history and the rise of modern civilization, along with the implications that it portends, remains unrecognized and unacknowledged by virtually the whole of the human race.

Catastrophism alters our world view. It is real. Great sweeping upheavals of nature have been a regular and consistent part of the geological process. I cannot emphasize enough that this reality is being ignored by those engaged in advancing a “climate change” political agenda that recognizes only the climatic influence of humans and a 100 parts per million increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

Recognition of the reality Catastrophism in the natural history of planet Earth is the signal to the human species that it is time to wake up and grow up. On June 8 of this year Asteroid 2014 HQ124, or “The Beast” as it has been nicknamed, made its rendezvous with Earth, zooming past at just over 700 thousand miles distant. The Beast is about 1300 feet in diameter, making it around 20 times larger in diameter than the meteorite that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Siberia in Feb. 2013, injuring more than 1200 people. However, since volume scales by the third power of the radius in a roughly spherical object, and assuming a similar density between the two objects, it means that by volume, The Beast would be about 7 to 8000 times more massive than the Chelyabinsk meteor. The Beast was about 10 times the diameter of the great Tunguska bolide of 1908, meaning it was some 600 or 700 times as massive. An object of this mass striking the Earth at a closing velocity of 31,000 miles per hour would be a serious planetary wake up call. The crater blasted out of the Earth’s crust would be between two and four miles in diameter. As much as 50 cubic miles of material could be ejected into the atmosphere causing a global cooling that would seriously disrupt global agriculture. The area obliterated by blast and fire would be close to the size of Texas. If it occurred in a populated zone millions of people would perish. The environmental and economic consequences of such an encounter would be severe in the extreme. And most people remain oblivious to the fact that over the past several decades there have been several dozen “close encounters” with celestial objects that could seriously disrupt life as we know it and provoke enormous ecological and environmental consequences if they impacted Earth. (see my article ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’)

[pullquote]Catastrophism alters our world view. It is real. Great sweeping upheavals of nature have been a regular and consistent part of the geological process. I cannot emphasize enough that this reality is being ignored by those engaged in advancing a “climate change” political agenda that recognizes only the climatic influence of humans and a 100 parts per million increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.[/pullquote]

How many more close encounters with cosmic “beasts” will it take before we humans finally get our priorities right? Will it take a significantly larger event than Chelyabinsk to finally shake the human race out of its hypnotic stupor and fixation upon the grossly superficial?
Was the author of the New Testament Book of Matthew pointing to the necessity of recognizing the big picture when he quoted Jesus in the 24th chapter: “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and knew not until the flood came and swept them away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”? The author of these words is not implying that the routine affairs of daily human life are intrinsically bad, rather he is trying to make the point that it is only when the attention of humankind never rises above the level of the mundane that we render ourselves vulnerable to disaster. The Hopi Elders believe that previous worlds were destroyed when mankind “neglected the plan of the Creator.” The great sage Lao Tsu said “When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.” And the esteemed historian Will Durant, after a lifetime of study into the rise and fall of civilizations wrote: “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.” It would behoove us to ponder deeply the meaning of these words as we press forward into an unknown and indeterminate future.

In reference to the quote from the Book of Matthew above I pose this question: Was the actual meaning of the “coming of the Son,” hiding symbolically behind the mythical, moral and prophetic narrative of the Synoptic Gospels, really about the cyclical nature of the changing cosmic environment and the return of the Son of the Sun, the agent of cosmic redemption that forcibly rouses the human species to a higher existence, the same image of cyclical return that lies at the core of all the world’s prophetic traditions? Fundamentalists will resist reading verses such as this in the light of symbolism and those of scientific training ignore matters generally deemed theological, but sooner or later it will be recognized that the corpus of ancient and sacred writings of many traditions conceal a hidden teaching, preserved in the form of symbolical narratives and geometric allegories, encoded thousands of years ago by persons unknown for the edification, and possible salvation, of future generations. We can only hope that this recognition comes sooner, rather than later.

For those with ears to hear, let them hear.


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  1. Junior O'connor

    I tip my cap to ya !! Brilliantly descriptive, poetic and succinct…my sincere gratitude to you Randall for your passionate work. Keep blazing your trail…

  2. Very cool Randall! Makes alot of sense. Plausible! Mother Earth and the Cosmic fires will purify us reguardless of our own convictions.

  3. Great article. Yes, human generated carbon dioxide is just one variable in an extremely complicated and chaotic system that is Earth’s climate.

  4. RealityAlwaysBites

    Observing the Earth’s past catastrophic events with those happening realtime to other stars and planets around us reminds us, the earth is just one of trillions of planets, nothing special except to us.

    • poisson d'avril

      On the contrary, accumulating evidence makes the evolutionary history of the Earth seem ever more unlikely. If the Earth did not have a solid iron core, surrounded by swirling liquid iron, it would not have the powerful magnetic field that protects life on this planet from damaging cosmic radiation. It is the only planet in this solar system that has this feature–as well as being the only planet (just barely) in the “habitable zone”. If the Earth did not have plate tectonics, it is increasingly doubtful if life would have gotten a start here at all. The Earth has a moon because of a specific kind of collision with a specific planetoid object of a very specific mass range. If the Earth had no moon, to provide specific kinds of intertidal environments, it is unclear if marine life could have evolved into terrestrial life–or, at least, if that could have happened as rapidly as it did. Were it not for the kind of catastrophic events found in the geologic record, causing massive extinctions, followed by rapid evolution of new species to fill all of the newly available niches, it is doubtful if evolution in general would have progressed as rapidly as it has on this planet. Were it not for the violent encounter with a celestial object that delivered the coup de gras to the dinosaurs, at the end of the Cretaceous, it is doubtful if mammalian species would ever have been liberated from the shadow of the dinosaurs. Therefore, it is doubtful that humanity would have ever evolved. Had the end Cretaceous extinctions not occurred, it is equally doubtful that any dinosaur species would have evolved an intelligence equivalent to humans by now. That is a lot of specific conditions and events that seem not so likely to have all happened elsewhere, all that frequently–all leading, seemingly inexorably, to us–or something like us. From what we are learning, as we gather ever more evidence of exoplanets, the entire arrangement of planets in our solar system looks ever more unique. If Jupiter were not where it is, in relation to the Earth, celestial catastrophes would have been MUCH more common, and would have probably impeded evolution, instead of apparently aiding it. In the overwhelming majority of planetary systems that we have found so far, Jupiter sized planets orbit much closer to their parent stars. As we perfect our ability to detect Earth sized planets orbiting other stars, and get more detailed information about them, we may have a better idea of just how unique, or mundane, our little world may actually be.

  5. Great essay, BUT… isn’t there something missing about that epiphany in 1969? You know, something you mentioned during your last appearance in The Joe Rogan Experience, hmmmmm? 😉

  6. poisson d'avril

    This is a beautifully written article, that in many ways parallels my own life experience. But I simply don’t get how the growing evidence for catastrophic events influencing Earth’s geologic, climate, and evolutionary history in any way obviates the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. I especially don’t get how those who collect, correlate, and publish that growing body of evidence are any more “self serving” than those who continue to gather, correlate, and publish the evidence for natural catastrophes in the geologic past. In fact, a lot of evidence from both areas of study are beginning to overlap. It seems patently obvious to me that objections to this growing body of climatological evidence are proselytized chiefly by, and only benefit, a relative handful of people who have been making tons of money from the dead end technology of fossil fuel burning.

    Let’s just set aside the ideologically tinged politics of climate change, and look solely at the advantages of maintaining the energy status quo of the past century, versus accelerating a change toward energy efficiency, and clean renewable sources of energy.

    On June 6, 2014, Germany established a historical benchmark. On that date, for the first time, that nation produced over half of its electricity needs from solar sources–mostly rooftop installations scattered all over the country. This was possible not only because of an ambitious solar energy program, but even more so, because of an even more ambitious energy efficiency program. The German government has discovered that the cheapest and cleanest energy in the world, is the energy that doesn’t have to be produced to make up for pure waste. Not only have these programs reduced the rate at which Germany’s carbon footprint has grown since 2011, but it has also generated business and employment opportunities whose economic value far outweighs their national cost. Just this week, EU leaders in Brussels, have strongly suggested that they would like to mandate something similar throughout the entire EU. Not just for the clear economic and environmental benefit, but because it occurs to them, in the light of the current Ukraine crisis, that it might also be in Europe’s best interest to free itself, as much as possible, from dependence on Russian fossil fuel supplies.

    Now, looking at the other side of the equation, the US has aggressively followed a policy of ramping up domestic fossil fuel production on all fronts, but fossil fuel energy here has not gotten noticeably cheaper. At least one reason for this is that all of the easy sources have been exploited, and what remains is increasingly difficult, and therefore expensive, to extract. The cost of fossil fuels has only ONE direction in which it can go.

    Back to efficiency, and clean renewables–the costs of these technologies just keep going down. And improvements in energy storage technology are making them more consistently accessible. The thing is that huge centralized solar and wind electricity generating facilities that can distribute reliable power, both day and night, in calm weather or breezy weather, are NOT on the near horizon. That is what most bothers those benefiting from the current energy regime, about alternative energy policy. It does not lend itself well to the kind of energy monopoly we have all been living with for so long. Alternative energy is more about smaller sources of profit being scattered more evenly throughout an economy. That is good for people in general, but not necessarily for a certain specific class of investors.

    The summation of “argument” in this article seems to be that we should all stop worrying about any relationship between climate change and energy policy, and concentrate instead upon the occasional geologic and celestial catastrophes that turn up throughout the geological record. I don’t quite follow this either. Man made policy, regardless of whether one specifically accepts anthropogenic climate change or not, is something that we can actually do something about, and we would all benefit economically in the not so long term if we did. Most of the catastrophes in the geological record are something that our current technology can do little or nothing about, so one might rationally ask, “Why worry about them?” Governments are taking steps to develop improved technologies for detecting threats from outer space, and to nudge them into orbits that wouldn’t threaten our planet. Those technologies are not going to come online any faster by neglecting sane energy policy. As for other major geological events that seem to have no connection to errant celestial objects, they are so poorly understood, that it is unlikely that any defense against them will appear at any time in the foreseeable future. We can only trust in whatever divine power, or powers, have brought about the remarkable set of astronomic and geologic events that have led to our evolution, and brought our civilization to this point. And in so doing, we might remember Captain John Smith’s exhortation that, “God helps those who help themselves”.

    • I disagree; I think the “argument” in this article is a response to the relentless self-hating anthropogenic proponents who politicize “global warming” and make it impossible to have a logical, grownup discussion. OF COURSE we should work to clean our air and water; OF COURSE we want a better environment! No one has ever, EVER disputed that. Not even the CEO of Halliburton. But PC global warmers never advance the discussion beyond what a bunch of meanies the Big Oil companies are, and how awful are those who drive SUVs, and shame on rich people! shame! Shame on you and me and blahblahblah Well, the rest of us are going to move on at this point, with a different — more significant — issue of climate change which bears greater investigation and attention. So, ya’ll just hush now.

      • Yes, lets all “just hush now” as our betters endlessly investigate and attend, while the rest of the world moves on without us. Clearly the “adult” strategy.

  7. Thank you Randall for sharing some of the intimate details of your journey along the path of knowledge. It seems from the description of your childhood that spending so much time in the vast open spaces of Minnesota’s natural beauty left an imprint on your consciousness, not only in wondering what caused these formations but also of developing another vast open space within your mind through which to observe the nature of reality in a much bigger picture. I like how you referred to the landscape as, “a vast living work of art” and how through your appreciation for nature’s beauty you gained a sort of dialogue with her after this. I think this experience in your childhood must have opened your eyes to see things clearly, and for those who have eyes to see, let them see.

  8. The Berezovka-mammoth who flash froze with still indigested food in its stomack, in about 10 hours time given a temperature at -150F(-100C), is today a mystery avoided in any school history. Almost like leprosy. Sibiria today is not providing the climate as of the days those animals lived there. Could the earth have been “tilted” somewhat, from having Hudson bay as the centre of the North Pole and what it is today? Sibiria would also then have been moved similar more to the north. When we combine the theories of Velikovsky with the factual proofs of mass extinction, it does become interesting..