At the same time that Donnelly was propagating his ideas of Atlantis, Augustus Le Plongeon was offering another version of the story, with the island nation of Atlantis taking the name of Mu (pronounced Moo). Le Plongeon believed that his translation of ancient Mayan texts revealed a new-world version of the Atlantis story, giving more credence to Plato's old-world version. Like Plato's Atlantis, Le Plongeon's island of Mu disappeared beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in the distant past. In the early twentieth century, James Churchward argued that the story of Mu was actually the story of a second lost-island civilization. Atlantis had disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean, Mu into the Pacific. This lost island of the Pacific also came to be known as Lemuria.
13. Churchward's map of Atlantis and Mu.
The name 'Lemuria' was coined at the end of the nineteenth century by geologists and biologists as an attempt to explain the fact that lemurs are not only found on the island of Madagascar but also on the Indian subcontinent and on the islands of Malaysia. A prehistoric land bridge uniting these now separate lands would offer a neat explanation of how the lemur population managed to get from one location to the other - a feat that looks impossible if it is assumed they had to cross great bodies of water. The theoretical land bridge was therefore called 'Lemuria.' Its existence was deduced in a fashion similar to that used by Donnelly to deduce the existence of Atlantis - with lemurs playing the role of cultures.
The most developed vision of lost Mu/Lemuria is found in the writings of theosophist Helena P. Blavatsky and her followers. According to Blavatsky, the true story of Atlantis and Lemuria can be found in an ancient manuscript known as The Book of Dyzan. This book was revealed to Blavatsky by Tibetan masters - teachers and practitioners of the ancient arts of humanity. Blavatsky's commentaries and extrapolations on The Book of Dyzan were published in 1888 as The Secret Doctrine, one of the classics of theosophy. According to The Secret Doctrine, life evolved on earth through a procession of stages.
In each stage of development, humanity took on different forms and characteristics. Each instantiation of humanity is known as a 'Root Race.' The history of humanity is the story of the progress of our species through seven stages or seven Root Races. We live today at the fifth stage. The sixth and seventh are yet to come. Each Root Race is associated with a different continental homeland.
Human history began in 'The Imperishable Sacred Land.' The Imperishable Sacred Land has never suffered the fate of other continents that rise and pass away. This land will survive from the beginning of human history to the end. Blavatsky writes in The Secret Doctrine: 'Of this mysterious and sacred land very little can be said, except, perhaps, according to a poetical expression in one of the Commentaries, that the "pole-star has its watchful eye upon it, from the dawn to the close of the twilight of 'a day' of the GREAT BREATH"' (6). According to some readers of Blavatsky's difficult prose, the Imperishable Sacred Land is located at the North Pole, a proposition that might have seemed more likely in the 1880s than it does today. Other readers have suggested that this far-northern land is actually in the interior of the earth, reached by an opening at the pole (but more about this in the next chapter). According to Blavatsky's follower, W. Scott-Elliot, in his The Lost Lemuria (1904), the physical bodies of the First Root Race of the Imperishable Sacred Land would have looked to modern humans like giant phantoms, assuming that we could see them at all, their bodies consisting of 'astral matter.'
The second continent is identified by Blavatsky as 'Hyperborea.' Hyperborea was a land that 'stretched out its promontories southward and westward from the North Pole to receive the Second Race, and comprised the whole of what is now known as Northern Asia' (7). Winter was unknown to this northern continent in the ancient days, perhaps because the earth had not yet tilted on its axis. According to Scott-Elliot, Hyperboreans were a bit more substantial than their ancestors, but still essentially shapeless. They had rudimentary organs and skeletal systems and reproduced through asexual budding. Like the First Root Race, the second would have also been invisible to the human eye. Hyperborea eventually broke apart, the lands of the Arctic Circle being its last remains.
The third continent Blavatsky called 'Lemuria.' Lemuria was a land mass that extended from the Indian Ocean to Australia. Scott-Elliot notes that, though closer to humans than the Hyperboreans, the Lemurian race should best be 'regarded rather as an animal destined to reach humanity than as a human according to our understanding of the term' (20). During the Lemurian age, the Third Root Race interbred with the most developed members of the animal kingdom, huge ape-like creatures that existed on Mars, earth, and Mercury:
From the Etheric Second Race, then, was evolved the Third - the Lemurian. Their bodies had become material, being composed of the gases, liquids and solids which constitute the three lowest sub-divisions of the physical plane, but the gases and liquids still predominated, for as yet their vertebrate structure had not solidified into bones such as ours, and they could not, therefore, stand erect. Their bones in fact were pliable as the bones of young infants now are. It was not until the middle of the Lemurian period that man developed a solid bony structure. (22)
Over time, the Lemurians became more substantial and more like modern humans. Scott-Elliot describes a typical Lemurian at a later point in their development:
His stature was gigantic, somewhere between twelve and fifteen feet. His skin was very dark, being of a yellowish brown colour. He had a long lower jaw, a strangely flattened face, eyes small but piercing and set curiously far apart, so that he could see sideways as well as in front, while the eye at the back of the head - on which part of the head no hair, of course, grew - enabled him to see in that direction also. He had no forehead, but there seemed to be a roll of flesh where it should have been. The head sloped backwards and upwards in a rather curious way. The arms and legs (especially the former) were longer in proportion than ours, and could not be perfectly straightened either at elbows or knees; the hands and feet were enormous, and the heels projected backwards in an ungainly way. The figure was draped in a loose robe of skin, something like rhinoceros hide, but more scaly, probably the skin of some animal of which we now know only through its fossil remains. Round his head, on which the hair was quite short, was twisted another piece of skin to which were attached tassels of bright red, blue and other colours. In his left hand he held a sharpened staff, which was doubtless used for defence or attack. It was about the height of his own body, viz., twelve to fifteen feet.
4 IN HIS RIGHT HAND...HE LED A HUGE AND HIDEOUS REPTILE, SOMEWHAT RESEMBLING THE PLESIOSAURUS }
In his right hand was twisted the end of a long rope made of some sort of creeping plant, by which he led a huge and hideous reptile, somewhat resembling the Plesiosaurus. The Lemurians actually domesticated these creatures, and trained them to employ their strength in hunting other animals. The appearance of the man gave an unpleasant sensation, but he was not entirely uncivilised, being an average common-place specimen of his day. (24)
Scott-Elliot notes that the pineal gland of modern humans is an atrophied remnant of the third eye which itself may be employed for a kind of astral vision. Lemuria was destroyed by volcanic activities.
The fourth continent was the continent of Atlantis. The land of Atlantis was inhabited by a Root Race fully human in appearance. Blavatsky indicates that Atlantis should be regarded as the first historical continent, except that most historians ignore the ancient record of its existence. Scott-Elliot offers detailed descriptions of Atlantean life and culture in The Story of Atlantis (1896). For the first time, humanity exhibited cultural development, including education, art, science, and religion. Scott-Elliot describes the education offered to the exceptionally gifted children of Atlantis as including training in the use of psychic abilities and the occult properties of plants, metals, and precious stones to heal diseases. They were also taught the alchemical techniques of matter transmutation as well as the ability to tap into the occult powers of the universe. He describes the marvelous technological developments that were achieved by the Atlanteans, including air-ships and flying machines.
These air-ships were for the benefit of the wealthier class. They were generally built for a small number of persons, from two-seaters to ships with room for eight. As the Atlantean age descended into warfare, these ships were used for battle. These battle-ships were much larger, accommodating up to 100 sailors. Scott-Elliot describes their construction:
The material of which the air-boats were constructed was either wood or metal. The earlier ones were built of wood - the boards used being exceedingly thin, but the injection of some substance which did not add materially to the weight, while it gave leather-like toughness, provided the necessary combination of lightness and strength. When metal was used it was generally an alloy - two white-coloured metals and one red one entering into its composition. The resultant was white-coloured, like aluminium, and even lighter in weight. Over the rough framework of the air-boat was extended a large sheet of this metal, which was then beaten into shape, and electrically welded where necessary. But whether built of metal or wood their outside surface was apparently seamless and perfectly smooth, and they shone in the dark as if coated with luminous paint. (68)
The craft could travel at an elevation of several hundred feet and approached speeds of 100 miles an hour.
Unlike the earlier Lemurian Root Race, the Atlantean culture was advanced enough to have included religion. The Atlanteans believed in a Supreme Being, symbolized by the sun. The worship of this sun-deity took place on hill tops where circles of upright monoliths were built. These monoliths, of which Stonehenge is an extant example, were also used for astronomical observances. Atlantis, however, suffered a period of cultural debasement before it was finally destroyed. Peace and prosperity gave way to war and violence, and the religion of the sun at times descended into fetishism. Atlantis was finally destroyed when it sank into the Atlantic Ocean.
The case of Stonehenge provides some interesting insight into the fall of the Atlantean Empire. According to Scott-Elliot, Atlanteans first arrived in Europe 100,000 years ago, arriving first on the shores of Scandinavia. These early Atlantean settlers were of the Akkadian race, taller and fairer than the indigenous Europeans. Scott-Elliot's description of these settlers bears some resemblance to the Puritan settlers in North America who left Europe as a form of religious protest to establish a more simplistic and austere religious community. He writes: 'The rude simplicity of Stonehenge was intended as a protest against the extravagant ornament and over-decoration of the existing temples in Atlantis, where the debased worship of their own images was being carried on by the inhabitants.' (53)
This theosophical version of Atlantis was decidedly weirder than Donnelly's version. But, we should note, it also purported to be a scientific account. Blavatsky and her followers not only claimed that their knowledge was based upon ancient manuscripts, itself a claim to empirical validation of sorts, but also appealed to the developing fields of evolutionary biology and geology. Specifically, Blavatsky and other theosophists were greatly influenced by the evolutionary monism of German biologist and champion of Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel's famous claim that 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny' can be seen as a critical source for theosophical theories of human evolution, with the earlier Root Races looking like gigantic zygotes and the Lemurians looking like giant, late-term fetuses dressed in rhinoceros hide. When your science is weird enough, no beliefs are too bizarre.
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