Electric Universe

The Case for an Electric Universe

Amy and Nel Acheson

Copyright © 1996-2002 Atlantis Rising. All Rights Reserved


Who would have guessed that the myths of ancient cultures could throw new light on the mysterious surface features of planets and moons? Or give new meaning to current work in artificial-lightning laboratories? If mythologist David Talbott of Portland, Oregon, and physicist Wallace Thornhill of Canberra, Australia, are correct, then ancient myths and symbols are a key to an expanded and holistic understanding of both history and the physical universe.

Yet in our age, world mythology seems a most unlikely source of discovery. Until recently, mythologists sought to explain the ancient stories with references to events in everyday life-to the seasons, to the power of a storm, to phases of the Moon, or to movements of the Sun. But their efforts have produced a morass of contradictions, reinforcing the popular belief that myth is fiction pure and simple-anything but a dependable guide to the past.


Immanuel Velikovsky

In contrast, David Talbott, inspired by Immanuel Velikovsky’s theory of interplanetary upheaval, developed a method for comparing the myths of far-flung cultures. His objective was to discover whether reliable memories are embedded in the different stories. This method is similar to the reasoning of lawyers in a court of law, questioning witnesses who may be lying, or incompetent, or remembering incorrectly. When statements from independent witnesses converge on unique details, they tend to corroborate each other, even if the witnesses are not reliable in other things they say. Similarly, according to Talbott, there are hundreds of common themes in world mythology, where different words and different symbols point to the same remembered events. The more peculiar the points of convergence, the more unreasonable it is to dismiss them.

When allowed to speak for themselves, these universal memories tell a coherent and detailed story, Talbott claims. But it is a story that seems preposterous from today’s worldview:

According to Talbott, what the ancients worshipped and feared as powerful gods were planets positioned extremely close to the Earth. This close congregation of planets appeared as huge powers in the sky. Their instabilities and unpredictable movements gave rise to one of the most common themes of myth-the wars of the gods. In these dramatic stories, the gods pound each other with cosmic lightning while fire and stone descend on the Earth.


In ancient traditions, few images are more vividly presented than the thunderbolts of the planetary gods, Talbott notes. Consider the gas-giant Jupiter, whom the Greeks remembered as the ruler Zeus, the victor in the celestial clash of the Titans. “Jupiter is just a little speck of light in our sky, but ancient peoples recalled the god Jupiter as a towering form in the heavens, wielding lightning as his weapon of choice. What does this mean? If the gods were planets, then the thunderbolts of the gods were nothing less than interplanetary lightning discharges.”


In Hesiod’s Theogony, we read of Zeus, “From Heaven and from Olympus he came immediately, hurling his lightning: the bolts flew thick and fast from his strong hand together with thunder and lightning, whirling an awesome flame….”

When the dragon Typhon attacked the world, there was “thunder and lightning, and … fire from the monster, and the scorching winds and blazing thunderbolt.” Destroyed by a lightning bolt from Zeus, the world-threatening dragon came to be known as the ‘thunderstricken’. Indeed, it is remarkable how many mythical figures are struck down by lightning. In classical myth alone, you would have to include Enceladus, Mimas, Menoetius, Aristodemus and Capaneus, Idas, Iasion, Asclepius and others. “The biggest mistake a scholar can make,” Talbott says, “is to look for terrestrial explanations. The earliest forms of these stories are cosmic. The gods, the great heroes, and the thunderbolts which fly between them are celestial through and through.”

Hebrew tradition has remembered well the lightning of the gods. Psalm 77 proclaims: “The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.” From India, the Mahabharata and Ramayana relate that lightning of the gods filled the heavens like a rain of fiery arrows. From ancient Egypt, Babylon, Scandinavia, China, and the Americas, myths and legends describe conflagrations attributed to thunderbolts from the gods.

These stories of cosmic battles provided much of the content of the myths we know today. Talbott writes: “If we’ve failed to recognize the celestial players, it’s because the planets which inspired these stories have receded to pinpoints of light. In modern times, we see no interplanetary lightning arcing between them.”

But Talbott reminds us that if there is anything to these global memories, the physical evidence should be massive. This amounts to a call for objective investigation of the surface features of planets and moons, to see if the tell-tale markers of interplanetary discharges might be present.


Wallace Thornhill

Unbeknown to Talbott, Australian physicist Wallace Thornhill had been pursuing just such an investigation. Thornhill had discovered Velikovsky’s books shortly before starting his university career. “I was the only physics undergraduate to haunt the anthropology shelves of the university library,” he says. “The result was a strong conviction that Velikovsky had presented a case which required further study.” But his next discovery was the reluctance, even hostility, of scientists to question the assumptions underlying their theories.

One of those assumptions which Thornhill questioned was the insignificance of electrical phenomena on astronomical scales. Nobel-laureate Hannes Alfven, a pioneering investigator of the properties of plasmas in electrical discharges such as lightning, had admonished theoretical physicists that their models were wrong. Real plasmas didn’t behave the way mathematical deductions predicted. They are not superconductors, Thornhill explains, nor can they be treated as a gas, as is implicit, for example, in the term ‘solar wind’. Electrical currents flow in them, pinching into long filaments and then braiding themselves into rope-like structures. These long, twisted filaments are visible in solar prominences, galactic jets, and comet tails. They were detected as ‘stringy things’ in the 45 million kilometer long tail of Venus last year.

Following the suggestion of Ralph Juergens, an electrical engineer who studied Alfven’s work, Thornhill began to amass evidence that most features now being photographed on planets, satellites, and asteroids are scars of plasma discharges: interplanetary lightning.

“By scaling up electrical effects seen on Earth and in the laboratory, I can provide stunning support for the ancient imagery of a different sky and hence the likelihood that planets and moons did move in close proximity in the recent past,” he claims. “An electrical model provides a simple mechanism for re-ordering a chaotic planetary system in a very short time and maintaining that stability.”

One of the laboratory effects is produced by moving a high-voltage pointed rod just above the surface of a powder-covered insulator placed on a grounded metal plate. The spark forms characteristic patterns in the powder. A long, narrow main channel of fairly uniform width will have a narrower, more sinuous channel engraved along its center. Tributary channels run parallel to the main channel for a distance, then they rejoin it almost perpendicularly.

Thornhill points out that these same features are seen on a larger scale in lightning strikes to earth, such as on golf courses. Trenches of constant width are created, with narrower furrows snaking down their centers. The soil blasted from the trench is deposited along both sides. Secondary channels may run parallel to the main channel, and tributary channels join at right angles.



Thornhill describes how the same effects are repeated on a planetary scale in the features called sinuous rilles. Long, uniformly-narrow channels snake across the surface, often with levees of material deposited along each side. The more sinuous inner channels often have chains of small, circular craters precisely centered along their axes, or the craters overlap to produce fluted walls. There is generally no sign of rubble from collapsed roofs as would be expected if the conventional ‘lava tube’ explanation for rilles on the Moon were correct. Nor is there evidence of the outwash that would result if the channels had been formed by water, as has been proposed for rilles on Mars.

Furthermore, the rilles run uphill and down, Thornhill points out, following an electrical potential rather than following the gravitational potential as water and lava do. Where rilles intersect, the younger channel and its levees continue uninterrupted across the older as though the older channel weren’t there. This is especially obvious on Europa, where the levees are often darker than the surrounding terrain. They are also darker than the central channel, which creates a problem for the accepted explanation that they are darker material welling up through cracks in the ice. Thornhill surmises the electrical forces of the arc altered the chemical or, possibly, the nuclear composition of the debris.

Particularly remarkable is the series of looping rilles on Europa: Ice cracking in loops is unheard of, but the characteristic ‘corkscrew’ form of a plasma filament arcing across the surface easily explains it.

Thornhill also notes the similarities of craters on the planets and moons to those created in the laboratory. Both tend to be perfectly circular because an electrical arc always strikes perpendicular to a surface. Walls are nearly vertical and floors are nearly flat as the circular motion of the arc machines out the crater. Impact and explosion craters, by contrast, tend to have a bowl shape: Instead of being lifted from the surface, excavated material undergoes shock displacement, shattering and flowing similar to a fluid for the duration of the shock.

Another common feature of electrically generated craters, Thornhill explains, is terracing along the sides, sometimes ‘corkscrewing’ down to the floor, following the rotary motion of the arc. The Moon and Mars both provide many examples of terraced and corkscrew craters.

Central peaks tend to be symmetrical and steep-sided, similar to the central ‘nipple’ left by plasma machining as the rotary ‘corkscrewing’ motion of the arc cuts out the material around it. Thornhill contrasts this with the irregular mass of the so-called “rebound peak” in a lab-produced impact or explosion crater. In a number of craters on the Moon, the central peak connects to the surrounding terrain with an ‘isthmus’, just as in a plasma-machined crater when the arc is quenched before completing a full rotation.

A telling characteristic of electrical origin, Thornhill asserts, is a crater centered on the rim of another crater. This is a common sight on the Moon and other planets. It’s an expected effect of the arc jumping to or striking the highest elevations.

Finally, many volcanoes are more likely scaled-up versions of fulgamites, Thornhill claims. Fulgamites are blisters of material raised on lightning arrestors during a strike. Typically, the fulgamite has a steep, fluted outer edge and a crater at the top, formed as the more-diffuse discharge that raised the fulgamite pinches down to a narrow arc. The most impressive example is Olympus Mons on Mars, 600 kilometers across and 24 kilometers high. A six-stroke crater was machined into the top as the arc narrowed and jumped to high spots on each successive rim.


mars-the-god-of-warThe possibility that human memories could explain some of the great surprises of the space age does not come as a surprise to Talbott. As an example, he describes the ancient “Scarface Motif”.

A theme that occurs in many cultures is the warrior-god who, at a time of upheaval, receives a gaping wound or scar on his forehead, face, or thigh. At first sight, this is hardly surprising, because warriors and wounds do go together. However, this is not just the story of “a warrior”, but of the celestial archetype of warriors-the god whom human warriors celebrated as their inspiration on the battlefield. In early astronomies this warrior archetype is identified with a specific planet-Mars.

It was said of the Greek Mars, named Ares, that this celestial warrior received a deep gash, as in his encounter with Diomedes; then the god lets loose the howl of a thousand warriors and rushes to Zeus to bemoan his gaping wound. An alternative Greek name for Mars was Heracles, and this god too suffers a harsh wound on his thigh.

The Blackfoot Indians do not appear to have preserved any astronomical associations with their legendary warrior “Scarface”. Nor do the Aztecs appear to have remembered any planetary connection for their famous scarred god Tlaloc. But Talbott insists that a comparative approach can demonstrate the common roots of such mythical themes.

Is it possible, then, that the “wounding” of Mars might refer to an actual event? “I remember looking at one of the first Mariner photographs of Mars,” Talbott recalls. “It displayed a stupendous chasm cutting across the face of the planet. Even from a considerable distance, the chasm looked like a scar.” Astronomers christened it “Valles Marineris”-and it would swallow a thousand Grand Canyons and more. “At that moment I realized that of all the planets and moons in our solar system, Mars alone bore the likeness of the warrior-god’s wound.”

The comparative method can also account for numerous details that the experts have missed. Most dramatic is the connection between the Scarface theme and the lightning of the gods. Talbott gives as an example the god Enceladus, struck down by a thunderbolt of Zeus. The god was remembered as “the lightning-scarred god”. Enceladus appears to be a counterpart of the monster Typhon, the “thunderstruck” god. Both can be identified as the terrible aspect of the celestial warrior, according to Talbott, for it was in his “man-slaying” rampage that Ares received his wound.

Talbott was the first to connect the highly visible scarring of the Aztec Tlaloc to lightning. “That’s entirely due to the fact that the experts have not looked at the worldwide theme,” he assures us. Tlaloc was in fact directly linked to lightning, and it was through lightning that he dispatched souls to the Aztec heaven. In Aztec mythology there is a special afterlife world reserved for people who are killed by lightning. It’s ruled by Tlaloc and is called Tlalocan.

“Could something as massive as Valles Marineris have been carved by interplanetary lightning?” Talbott wondered.

As it turned out, he had the opportunity to pose that very question to Wal Thornhill.


Thornhill and Talbott met nearly a decade after the first images of Valles Marineris were returned. Talbott summarized his investigation of the lightning-scarred god theme. “Could Valles Marineris have been caused by a thunderbolt?” he asked.

Thornhill replied, “It couldn’t have been anything else.”

At 4000 kilometers long, 700 kilometers across in places, and up to 6 kilometers deep, it’s comparable to scaling up the Grand Canyon to stretch from New York to Los Angeles. Approximately 2 million cubic kilometers of the Martian surface was removed with no comparable debris field apparent.

“Valles Marineris was created within minutes by a giant electric arc sweeping across the surface of Mars,” Thornhill claims. “The rock and soil were lifted into space. Some of it fell back around the planet to create the great, strewn fields of boulders seen by both Viking Landers and Pathfinder.”

He points to the steep, scalloped walls of the canyon and the central ridges as typical of plasma machining. The side gullies often terminate in circular alcoves and are left hanging with no debris apron in the main channel. They tend to join at right angles. Smaller channels and crater chains run parallel to the main channels. “The arc probably began in the east in the region of chaotic terrain,” Thornhill speculates. “It then swept westward forming the great parallel canyons. It finally terminated in the huge rilles of Noctis Labyrinthus.”

Thornhill has published a CD (The Electric Universe, available from WholeMind, 8350 S.W. Greenway, #24, Beaverton, OR 97008, 1-800-230-9347) describing these and other electrical phenomena on an astronomical scale. He cites the research of Talbott demonstrating that ancient peoples witnessed an age when these now-quiescent energies were dominant.

All the planets associated with the deities of myth are covered with scars that are explained best as plasma-discharge features. The craters, volcanoes, and canyons, when examined in detail, show essential differences from terrestrial counterparts. Yet those anomalous features do correspond with the features of lightning scars. Talbott’s prediction that the reconstructed themes of myth should be verified in massive physical evidence on the planets gains support with every image returned by space probes.

Valles Marineris bears the most striking correspondence with the mythical warrior-god’s wound. This mighty chasm represents the confluence of two worldviews: the dramatic, historical worldview of mythology and the objective, physical worldview of science. If Talbott and Thornhill are correct, the accepted understanding of both myth and science must be rebuilt on a new foundation that will support both the historical past and the electrical future.

Copyright © 1996-2002 Atlantis Rising. All Rights Reserved