Address to the Chancellors Dinner
The University of Lethbridge Cafeteria
Friday 10 May 1974
When I came to the University of Lethbridge four years ago I found that the University was formed with a philosophy that it devote itself to a multidisciplinary approach to learning. A year later when we moved to this new campus, I found that the building was specifically designed to foster interaction between various academic departments. To go anywhere in the building one has to use the main concourse and this creates an interaction between people who would not ordinarily meet. Well, philosophy and architecture can help foster, but cannot completely guarantee, a broad approach to learning. For someone like myself who has specialized for four years in the study of the hippocampus, the methodology which we were to use to foster a multidisciplinary approach to learning was not clear.
Last year it became a little clearer to myself and others after reading Dr. Velikovskys book Worlds in Collision. We were struck not only by the imagination and scope of his ideas, but more specifically were profoundly impressed by the way in which he had gathered evidence from such a vast number of academic fields as disparate as mythology, psychology, and physics. It was out of respect for his approach to knowledge and a belief that the ideals which he expressed were ideals which this University would like to incorporate that we proposed Dr. Velikovsky for an honourary doctorate in Arts and Science.
We were aware at the time, and became more aware as time went on, that the nomination would cause controversy. After looking at the architecture of the building, however, we felt that a little controversy would not shake it off its foundations.
In regard to controversy, I have a story to tell. Cajal, a Spanish anatomist and Golgian Italian anatomist, through their studies came to quite opposite ideas about how the brain was structured. In 1906 they jointly received the Nobel Prize, although the evidence overwhelmingly supported Cajal. What is so interesting in this case is that Cajal came to, and could only have come to his correct understanding by using the technological and methodological procedures developed by Golgi, and it was the controversy between these two men which led to the neuronal theory of brain organization which is the foundation on which modern neuroscience is established. What I think this shows is that we should not fear controversy or turn our backs on controversy, for controversy may be an essential ingredient for the advancement of knowledge.
I would now like to introduce Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, who has had such a tremendous influence on our thinking over the past year, and who, I am sure, will have a continuing influence on our ideas in the future. I give you Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky.
Chancellor Oshiro, President Beckel, Members of the Senate, Guests.
Originally I came to this University in response to the invitation from the Chancellor, who wrote explaining that the Senate had by unanimous vote invited me to accept an Honourary Degree in Arts and Science. I accepted this honour and responded that I would repay the honour by making this University the first and the only one from which I would receive an Honourary Degree.
I announced earlier today at the Cultural Amnesia Symposium it is very questionable whether I accept any other Honourary Degrees in the near future if they demand appearances and participation in various ceremonies or dinners.
Considering the time left to this mortal, considering the gift for procrastination with which I was endowed, postponing my work, postponing the publication of many volumes until this decade which will make me an octogenarian (in less than thirteen months), I believe I cannot permit myself the luxury of any more time away from my work, excepting to go to symposia.
After I accepted the offer of the Honourary Degree, a second invitation came, asking me to participate in a Symposium dedicated to one special aspect of that revolution of which I was by chance the originator — Cultural Amnesia. This Symposium has produced much discussion over the past two days, including two long speeches which I have already delivered today, so I will not fatigue either you, or myself, with a third long speech; I will only say that it has been worthwhile coming here, because I have discovered that a greater honour was accorded me here than just offering me a degree of Doctor of Arts and Science. It pleases me to know that in this University the various departments, which have been separated from one another by the very nature of their disciplines, have suddenly found a common ground. They have started to communicate with one another: physicist to historian, historian to biologist, biologist to geologist, geologist to astronomer, and so on. They have found a common suoject, a common theme, they have found a way to realize the purpose and idea behind the statement of philosophy for this University, which is to create an environment in which interdisciplinary synthesis can occur. And so here I have found that my work has brought ferment, and this is a great satisfaction to me.
I was pleased to find that scientific research has already begun in some of the departments, based upon ideas that were expressed in, or that followed from, my own work. I heard of the work of Dr. Stebbins (Department of Biological Sciences) and of Dr. Parry (Counselling Centre). If the ideas that these men have in their minds can be substantiated, they will produce great revolutions in their field of endeavour, and I will be very happy if I have in some way contributed to their beginning.
I askea myself the question: should I accept the Honourary Degree? If I agree to accept an Honourary Degree I lose my virginity. Until now, I had no Honourary Degree nor did I care for any; my only distinction was a gold medal from the gymnasium. I considered that my books were proof of my scholarship, my credentials. Those who read them can see from the references, which I give in the footnotes, the amount of work that has gone into my books. It is therefore of more satisfaction to me to know that in some universities there are special courses which discuss my work. I believe there are almost one hundred such courses. To me this is a distinction: Not every man who has an Honourarv Deeree (and some have fiftv Honourary Degrees) will see his work studied during his lifetime. I thought I would die an iconoclast, and that the next generation, my children or grandchildren, would be privileged to see me honoured.
It gave me pleasure to find truth, or at least to search for truth; and what I found gave me satisfaction. And sometimes I even found pleasure by being able to hold back my ideas for many years, knowing I was the only one to possess this knowledge. This is part of the reason why some of my books are still in manuscript form when they should long ago have been in print.
And so I decided to come here to receive this Honourary Degree in the name of all those who were initiators, who followed their pursuits in solitude — the iconoclasts, the scientific revolutionaries who are always in the minority: actually a minority of one when they started. If it were a question of opinion, if it were a question which could be voted upon, they all would have been voted down. If it had been a question of authority, none of them would ever have reaped the harvest of tneir pursuits, because authorities always oppose new ideas. To cite an example: Lord Kelvin, who was the most eminent physicist in the late Victorian days and in the beginning of this century, staunchly opposed the electromagnetic theory of James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwells theory is the basis of the quantum theory, of the theory of relativity, of all modern physical theory. Kelvin had the lowest possible opinion of Maxwells scholarship. And when young Rutherford became interested in the new idea of radiotelegraphy, proposed by Marconi, it was the same Lord Kelvin who tried to dissuade Rutherford: Keep away, there is no future in it at all, the most that will be produced will be a connection between lighthouses where it is difficult to put in an undersea cable. It was Kelvin who produced the calculation which made feasible the installation of the sub-Atlantic telegraph cable. Most of you who watch television or listen to the radio never think of de Forest or Marconi or the other pioneers who made broadcasting possible. Kelvin also didnt believe Roentgen, the discoverer of X-rays. Not only didnt Kelvin believe Roentgen, but he accused Roentgen of being a charlatan. I cannot remember exactly in what year I broke my arm while doing calisthenics in a gymnasium, but it was probably 1907 or 1908. I remember being brought to a doctor who had the only X-ray machine in Moscow. I saw my broken arm on the screen for myself. This happened about the time when Kelvin died, he might still have been alive. Certainly Kelvin did not alter his view that Roentgen was a charlatan to the time of his death in 1907.
I am here to receive this degree in the name of all those who started humbly, and who started alone, often working under very difficult conditions, who never received recognition or acclaim, unlike the pioneers I mentioned now. Somebody once said A man of talent is one who can, but a genius is one who must. Take the case of Dolomieu, the mountains in the north portion of the Adriatic Sea carry the name Dolomites in his honour. Dolomieu served under Napoleon during the French invasion of Egypt. He was later imprisoned in Napoli for several years. There he wrote his classic work on geology without having either pen or pencil, or paper upon which to write. The only object he was permitted to have was the Bible, and so he used the soot of a candle and the oil of a lamp, and he wrote his famous book on geology on the margins of the Bible. Even under difficult conditions the one who is possessed by an idea must follow it. It is not by desire, by caprice, by a need of some external goal, nor for fame, or for riches, but because something leads him so that he cannot stand still, he must follow the call. A mans name becomes great because of what he does, degrees do not make a man great. Darwin, who is not one of my heroes, had no degree, no doctorate in the sciences, no degree in geology or in evolution, or in paleontology, he had only a humble bachelors degree in theology, nothing more. The lack of a degree did not mean that his ideas and his work could not become the dominant idea for four decades into the twentieth century. Since the middle of this century his ideas have started to give place to better ideas.
I understand this University is not like other universities, and this is what made me accept its invitation. I understand there is a liberal spirit here, a spirit which is symbolized in this building. I attended several universities in the course of my studies. In my day, students wandered as they did in the time of Goethe, they spent two years at one university, two years at another, a year here, three years there, studying history, poetry, and philology, and politics, and other subjects, as they felt the urge. In earlier days it was even more so; but I do not intend to give you a long lesson in the history of scholarship.
I understand that this University will soon have a bridge, a bridge crossing over this valley and river, connecting the University with the town, and so both will prosper.
I think of the greater bridge that this University is already building. There are some innovators here, they are men who carry torches, who do not just repeat that which has already been repeated many times before. They are men who do not swear by Verba Magistri, the holiness of their school wisdom. They are men who do not say: this is what we were taught, this is what we will teach in passing knowledge from one generation to the next. They are men who do not avoid the sacrilege of questioning fundamentals. They are like the iconoclast, who, by his very nature, must question. Without questioning there can be no progress, and without progress we would remain stagnated. Scholarship is a matter of questioning.
I understand that the policy of this University is to seek a bridge into the spiritual world, into the wider community, into other cultures. If it does, then despite the fact that this is a young University, scholars will flock here, and students will follow. The Senate, when it convenes, will not only have to advise wisely, but it will have to take some responsibility to see that things are added to the University that government and fee-paying students could not accomplish. Maybe not all of the Senators can, but some of them must. This responsibility should be a pleasant yoke because nothing can give more satisfaction than to know that you have helped to put together the material foundation for something that is growing spiritually.
Accepting the Honourary Degree will not, I hope, deprive me of companionship within the circle of those who died not having seen honours for their many works and achievements in their lifetimes. And so in their name, I will accept tomorrow the honour of being proclaimed and admitted to membership in the Convocation of this University as a recipient of your Honourary Degree. For this I thank you.