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Atlantis and the Cycles of Time

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The following is excerpted from Atlantis and the Cycles of Time, published by Inner Traditions.


Ever since Plato described his
Atlantis, many authors have claimed to have found it.

Some say it was in the Atlantic
Ocean, with the Azores as its former mountain
peaks. Others prefer the Mediterranean: Malta,
Crete, Cyprus,
Santorini, and Troy
all have their champions. British Atlantologists find its legacy in Cornwall or the Irish Sea; Germans, in the sinking isle of
Helgoland; Swedes, in Sweden.
Some favor the Arctic,
or the Antarctic. Others turn to the New World, finding Atlantis in Cuba, San Domingo, Central
America, Bolivia,
even Wisconsin.
All these authors must have finished their books with a serene smile and the
certainty that they, and they alone had put a stake through the heart of the
matter. The fact that it now looks like a pincushion gives one pause. Since
these theories cannot all be right, it is quite probable that many are wrong.

I search for Atlantis in a different way. To begin, I see a wiser group that takes
a global perspective. Rather than planting the Atlantean flag in a single
location, it finds evidence in the worldwide "fingerprints of the gods" for a
prehistoric seafaring culture, expert in mathematics and astronomy, and given
to moving large stones. Some of the particularists, to give them their due,
find their place as contributors to this broader vision. Plato aside, each has
found something of value and added in some way to knowledge of the distant

Anyone who keeps
abreast of the "New Archaeology" is well aware of all this. He or she may also
have noticed that the New Archaeology has a New Age aura about it. Among its
prime movers, Colin Wilson is one of the most popular authors on occult
traditions. John Anthony West has written a defence of astrology and an
exposition of the Hermetic adept Schwaller de Lubicz. Graham Hancock now writes
about experiences with entheogens. Robert Bauval's theories touch on equally
Hermetic doctrines of astral immortality. Robert Schoch is now concerned with
parapsychological research. However, their prime material is still the
monuments themselves; their prime intent, to understand why they are as they
are. The only explanation that satisfies them is that prehistoric peoples
experienced states of being incomprehensible through the materialist paradigm.
The reasonable course, then, is to try a different paradigm.

Another type of
Atlantologist has been doing this all along, by taking a supra-rational
approach to the question of prehistoric high culture. It is wrong to call them
irrational, because they do not reject reason. However, they consider other
avenues of knowledge supplementary if not superior to it. The traditionally
minded put their faith in scriptures and sacred authorities, while those open
to the paranormal rely on intuition, initiation, clairvoyance, or mediumship. One
might call them occultists, but only in the sense that they all claim access to
knowledge that is "occulted" or hidden from the rationalists.

The occultists'
Atlantis is a colorful and often beautiful tapestry, woven by visionaries, prophets,
and receivers of divine revelation. But I cannot leave it at that. I want to
turn the tapestry over to see how the knots are made, then snoop around in
their workrooms.

One of the first
facts to emerge is that there are distinct national schools. The first
Atlantologists of the modern age were two Frenchmen of the Enlightenmen, the astronomer
Jean-Sylvain Bailly and the theosopher Fabre d'Olivet,. Together they launched
a particularly French strain, carried onward by Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, Edouard
Schuré, Papus, René Guénon, and Paul le Cour. After World War II this spawned a
more popular genre with Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier's Morning of the Magicians, the review Planète, and the books of Robert Charroux,
who blended it with the Ancient Astronaut theory.


The French
Atlantologists tend to give information ex
, keeping their sources to themselves, as though what they have to
say about prehistory is obvious to any reasonable person. Reason does not
exclude immaterial or even spiritual realities, but once these are accepted as
part of the natural order of things, certain consequences follow. From the
start, they envisaged prehistory in a context of the variously colored races
(Yellow, Red, Black, White), to which they attribute separate origins. Each
arose on a different continent, or, according to some, on a different planet.
This is a constant of French occultism, together with the caution that no race
is deemed superior or inferior to the others. One of the later writers, Jean
Phaure, says that we are all of mixed blood, but "whether we are yellow, white,
black, or red, we possess that fragment of the divine Spirit that makes us
humans and not animals." (Le cycle de
l'humanité adamique,
1988, pp. 273-74)

The Germanic
strain of Atlantology is rather different, and its earlier proponents have
harmed our subject, and occultism in general, by association. The Ariosophists
of the pre-Nazi era were racial supremacists, and their Atlantean theories
conformed to that outlook. In 1904 Lanz-Liebenfels, a "New Templar," set the
trend in his Theozoologie,  writing of how the tall, white race of
Atlantis interbred with apes. The result was a hybrid race of "sodomitic
apelings" that survived into classical times and left its genetic stain in
almost all of us. Lanz's solution was a rigid eugenic program that would, in
time, breed out the animal element, though he added that purified humanity
would still need some subhuman creatures as slaves. Few of the Ariosophists
veered so far towards the lunatic fringe as Lanz, but none of them challenged
his authority.

After the defeat
of World War I, Ariosophical doctrines were in place to comfort the battered
German soul and hold out a glorious future for it. Here is one version of the
myth, which I paraphrase from Hermann Wieland's Atlantis, Edda und Bibel (1922):

The Arctic region,
where a temperate vegetation flourished, was home to the Aryans, a blond,
blue-eyed, brachycephalic race. They lived there happily until a regularly recurring
alteration of the earth's axis brought on an ice age, then were forced to
migrate southward. Leaving their polar homeland, the Aryans settled on the
island-continent of Atlantis, setting up a twelvefold nation that would later
become the model for the zodiac and the divisions of time by hours and months.
They were forbidden to kill animals and lived whenever possible as vegetarians,
unlike the lower races who already inhabited the land and were little better
than beasts themselves. The Edda and both Testaments of the Bible are really
chronicles of the Aryans' history. Whenever the Bible speaks of Beasts, it
refers to lower races, as do all the laws of Moses and injunctions of Jesus.

Readers of my
earlier book Arktos: The Polar Myth in
Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival
(first published 1993; now reprinted
by Adventures Unlimited) will be familiar with much of this, and with later

Atlantology also included some who were caught against their will in the
maelstrom of events. Herman Wirth, for instance, was busy with his own theory
of a prehistoric Arctic culture that left its symbols in petroglyphs throughout
the circumpolar regions. Anticipating later anthropologists like Maria Gimbutas,
Wirth believed that this was a matriarchal society, and that the trouble began
later with patriarchy and its aggressive monotheistic religions. Wirth was
co-opted by the Ahnenerbe (the think-tank of the SS) because his theories
superficially seemed to support the Nordic-Aryan myth, but he disappointed them.
Himmler fired him, and Wirth was forbidden to publish for the remainder of the
Third Reich.


One who managed to
keep out of trouble was the little-known occultist known as  Peryt Shou. His career spanned both world wars,
during which he ran a small and secretive group, teaching methods for regaining
one's spiritual birthright through a mixture of astrology, posture, and mantra.
He wrote two books on Atlantis, and is probably the first to have seen any
significance in the names Plato gives for the ten Atlantean kings. He analyzes
them into their phonetic contents and tabulates their correspondences with star
names, the Egyptian decans, the Sephiroth of the Kabbalah, the antediluvian
patriarchs of Genesis, and the multiples and divisions of the "mother number"
432. (Esoterik der Atlantier, 1913,
pp. 40-42, 59-61)

Peryt Shou's object
was to retrieve the spiritual awareness and autonomy that were lost with the
fall of Atlantis. In his words, "Man forms himself, creates himself, for he
possesses the divine guardian, the angel in his breast, who watches lest he
thereby violate the divine law… In the course of his development, man grew ever
further from this primordial religion. He believed that the Godhead was there
to care for him, and so he should entrust everything to it… Through the Fall,
man lost the right to free self-determination. He had to lean on God for
everything and thereby forgot that God burned with its holiest rays in his own
breast." (Atlantis: Das Schicksal der
1930, p. 78)

After Germany's
second defeat, anything occult was shunned owing to its associations, real or
attributed, with the Third Reich. Rare exceptions were Rudolf Steiner's
Anthroposophic movement, which was obviously innocent of any complicity with
Nazism, and the Externsteine Circle.
This was founded in the 1960s by Walther Machalett, a school teacher enthralled
by the genii loci (spirits of place)
and by a theory of prehistoric geodesy (earth measurement). His scheme linked
Atlantis and the Pyramids with the Externsteine, an awe-inspiring natural
formation in northwest Germany.
Meeting each year on Ascension Day in the shadow of those towering rocks, the
Machalett forum brings together psychics and engineers, scholars and
eccentrics, in a non-dogmatic exploration of prehistoric cultures and earth

Each of the major
strains of occult Atlantology has its own style. The Germans are more indebted
to Theosophy and its concept of root races (see below), which the Ariosophists
developed in one direction, the Anthroposophists in another. They almost never
claim supersensible powers themselves, but believe that such existed in ancient
times and may be revived in the future. The third major national strain is the
British, which differs from the French and German by its openness about its
methods and the great variety of these.

From Britain, we have
accounts of Atlantis from self-trained trance mediums (Dion Fortune, Margaret
Lumley Brown); dictation by an inner voice (H. C. Randall-Stevens); vision of
the past induced by meditating at an ancient site (Paul Brunton); open-eyed
vision on site by a medium (Olive Pixley); manuscripts made available during
initiation into an arcane order (Lewis Spence); a discarnate entity who takes
the subject on a tour (Daphne Vigers); the return of a well-known nineteenth-
century medium (Mandasoran); another medium who acts as mouthpiece for his
controlling entity (Anthony Neate); a person who has a single flash of inspired
vision (Katharine Maltwood), from which she develops a system; an enthusiast
for outlandish theories (Brinsley le Poer Trench) who constructs his own
eclectic model; and another (John Michell) whose enthusiasms lead to a
geometric revelation of his own. The variety of methods is matched by the
variety of Atlantises thus received.

Beside these three
principal strains there are undoubtedly Russian Atlantologists, and certainly
some scientific interest there and in Eastern Europe, but apart from Nicolas
Zhirov and Zden?k Kukal
(who have been translated), these await researchers who know the relevant
languages. In any case, to classify modern Atlantology by national schools
overlooks the biggest contributor of all. None of the twentieth-century
authorities, whatever their alleged sources, could avoid the influence of Theosophy.

Modern Theosophy
has passed through two distinct eras, often mistaken for a single one. The
earlier one is represented by the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and her
contemporaries; the later, by Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant.
Blavatsky made some remarks on Atlantis and prehistoric cultures in Isis Unveiled (1877), but it was a
series of letters signed by the Mahatmas Koot Hoomi and Morya that outlined the
definitive scheme of human evolution from the occultist point of view.
Blavatsky amplified it in The Secret Doctrine
(1888), which chronicles five "root races" that have nothing to do with the
colored races of French Atlantology, but are large-scale stages of human
evolution. They begin with humanity in an ethereal or gaseous state (the first
two root races) and devolve through a gradual coagulation and division into
sexes (the third, called Lemurian) into full physicality with the fourth root
race (Atlantean). With the fifth (Aryan: our current state), we are on the long
return journey to spiritualization.


In Blavatsky's
scenario, every root race except the first suffered one or more cataclysms.
Continents disappeared, new lands appeared, mountain chains rose. "The face of
the Globe was completely changed each time; the survival of the fittest nations and races was secured through
timely help; and the unfit ones-the failures-were disposed of by being swept
off the Earth. Such sorting and shifting does not happen between sunset and
sunrise, as one may think, but requires several thousands of years before the
new house is set in order." (The Secret
1888, vol. 2, pp. 636-37, italics original) The immediate cause
of these cataclysms was not outside agency, such as a comet, but changes in the
inclination of the earth's axis (another topic treated at length in Arktos).

As to the dating
of these events, Blavatsky was aware that the most advanced scientists of her
day allowed an age of the earth of 500 million years. Humanity is virtually
coeval with the planet: the first root races appeared in the Primordial and
Primary periods, the Lemurians in the Secondary period (age of reptiles), and
the Atlanteans in the Tertiary (age of mammals). There is no fossil evidence
because early human bodies were not fully materialized. Most of Atlantis was
destroyed 850,000 years ago, leaving a fragment that finally vanished as
recorded by Plato. As for him, he was an initiate who was forbidden to tell the
whole truth about the human past. "Aiming more to instruct as a moralist than
as a geographer and ethnologist or historian, the Greek philosopher merged the
history of Atlantis, which covered several million years, into one event which he
located on one comparatively small island." (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, pp. 760-61)

After Blavatsky's
death in 1891, the Theosophists kept the basic structure of root races while
seeking to improve on the details. They tended to move the Atlanteans closer to
the present day, so that they could be made responsible for Stonehenge
and the Pyramids. One such was Alfred Percy Sinnett, to whom the Mahatmas' letters
had been addressed. After the correspondence ceased, he started his own private
circle in which an entranced medium gave out further information. Sinnett's
friend Charles Webster Leadbeater, in contrast, used his own clairvoyance to
penetrate the distant past, the astral plane, past lives, etc. The most popular
book of occult prehistory, Walter Scott-Elliot's Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria, derives its Egyptian material from Sinnett's
medium (whom Scott-Elliot married) and the rest from Leadbeater.

book includes four maps of Atlantis, first published in 1896, which have been
reproduced countless times since. Sinnett, in his preface, says that these maps
come from "records physically preserved," and Scott-Elliot describes them as "a
globe, a good bas-relief in terra-cotta, and a well-preserved map on
parchment." From later sources we learn that they are in Tibet, in the Museum of Records
of the Great White Brotherhood, and that Leadbeater was given permission to
visit it in his astral body and copy the maps there.

Atlantis myth carries a powerful psychic charge, and has served many groups and
individuals in their manipulation of people's belief systems. I am not in the
business of debunking, but I like to get to the bottom of tall tales like
Scott-Elliot's maps. Other popular clichés would be James Churchward's Mu, the
last words of Jesus, reputedly spoken in "pure Mayan," Katharine Maltwood's
Glastonbury Zodiac, the Lemurians of Mount Shasta, and the various Atlantean
scenarios put out by Rosicrucian orders. By clearing away such growths, one has
a better chance of tackling the genuine enigmas of human origins and evolution.

Whom then should we trust? I listen to them
all: Rudolf Steiner, Alice Bailey, the ill-matched Tradionalist couple of René Guénon
and Julius Evola, the Avalonians from Dion Fortune to John Michell; the excruciating
Oahspe, wily Gurdjieff's Beelzebub, Phylos
the Tibetan, who starts the Mount Shasta business; Edgar Cayce, the "I AM"
folk, William Dudley Pelley of Silver Shirts fame, Doreal-Doggins with his
Emerald Tablets; the teasing trio of George Adamski, Richard Shaver, and George
Hunt Williamson; wise old Seth, tough old Ramtha, James Merrill with his Ouija
board, and quite a few others.

I laughing at them, or with them? It depends on the degree to which they were
deliberately putting one over on their disciples or audiences. And having said
that, who is meant by "they"? The channelers themselves, or whatever is
communicating through them? Most channelers seem sincere: almost all of them
started their careers unwillingly after a transcendent irruption into their
lives. But I am suspicious of their sources which, when they are not total
bores, often seem to be stretching our credulity for their own amusement. Since
they do not agree with one another, they cannot all be right:  for example, they date the Great Pyramid at
anything from 200,000 to 6000 years ago. Yet each source has an amazing
consistency and personality, and a seemingly inexhaustible fund of knowledge.

In former times,
possession by a god, demon, or spirit was the only explanation for this
phenomenon. Once those were eliminated, it seemed that everything had to come
from the channel's subconscious mind, or conscious fraud. I offer a lightly
held alternative hypothesis. It combines Buddhist doctrine with the allegory of
cyberspace, and goes as follows. When sentient beings die, they release mental
energies that may form congelations of intelligence, perhaps combining with
other free-floating energies in resonance with them (N.B. Buddhism has no
immortal soul to keep them together). These act like files containing a
mishmash of information, memory, dogma, and speculation, ordered as in life by
a logical program akin to language. Given a suitable recipient, they download
into it, blending with the recipient's own information, beliefs, and so forth.
The way it emerges-through trance, automatic writing, and so on-is merely a
matter of style. This suggestions somewhat resembles the idea of the
"egregore," a wandering influence that takes on a pseudopersonality and may be
nourished by attention, belief, and sacrifice. But it does not hold out much
hope for finding the truth about Atlantis.

If we are sincere
in our desire for this, we have to face the mystery of time and its connection
with human consciousness. To be brief, it is a question of whether sequential
time exists at all outside our minds. The metaphysical doctrines of East and
West suggest rather that time, like space, is part of the illusion inherent in
human consciousness. We feel caught in its coils and rhythms, but from a higher
point of view past and future coexist. Some channeled communications do help us
understand this, and so (I'm told) does quantum physics. There is the further possibility
that the Atlantis visited through clairvoyance, astral travel or entheogens
might be not in the earth's past, but in a parallel and present universe.

Coming down to earth,
there is an idea that time proceeds not in a straight line but in cycles. There
are two main schemes: the Four Ages or Yugas, and the astrological Ages based
on the precession of the equinoxes. The weightiest chapters of Atlantis and the Cycles of Time survey
the origins and permutations of these theories. My object is to give the reader
solid information, properly sourced, so that it is clear where the various
claims come from and what assumptions (cosmological, historical, metaphysical)
underlie them. For instance, Hindu orthodoxy puts us in the Kali Yuga, which
began in 3102 BCE and lasts 432,000 years, getting worse all the time. Others
reject these figures, especially the French traditionalists who have made
time-cycles their particular study. René Guénon, Alain Daniélou, Gaston
Georgel, and Jean Phaure all come up with a reduced duration for the Kali Yuga of
something over 6000 years. Their calculations of its end-date and the
consequent return of the Golden Age vary: AD 1999, 2000, 2012, 2030, 2160, and
2442 are all mentioned.

There are also
contrarian theories. Fabre d'Olivet reversed the Yugas, convinced that the Kali
Yuga was not the worst period but the best. Some Buddhists, Jains, and the
modern guru Sri Yukteswar have them going alternately up and down, like a sine
wave. Each of these conflicting theories needs to be examined for its roots and
motives, rather than accepted on anyone's authority.

There is similar
disagreement about the end of the Age of Pisces and the dawning of the Aquarian
Age. The earliest date I have found is 1760, one of four dates suggested in
Godfrey Higgins's Anacalypsis. The
year 1881 was once a popular choice, seeming to agree with another cycle: that
of the Reigns of the Seven Archangels, which was part of the teachings of the
Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.

Carl Jung took the
trouble to consult astronomy, and pointed out that dating the Age of Aquarius depends
on which star marks the beginning of the constellation. That  gives a wide range, from 1997 to 2154, but the
actual year does not matter much: it is the whole period of transition that
interests him.

Calculating the
Aquarian Age also depends on whether you take the traditional precessional
number, 25,920 years, giving 2,160 years for each age, or whether, like Jung,
you follow the current scientific estimate of about 25,770. Furthermore, you may
divide it into twelve ages according to the astrological constellations, which
are exactly 30 degrees each, or the astronomical ones, which are of unequal
length and whose borders may shift along with the proper motion of their
component stars.

To put the final
wrench in the precessional machinery, many traditional texts assert that the
earth's axis used to be perpendicular to the ecliptic, so that in former times
there was no precession and no seasons. Some connect this with the Golden Age
and with human habitation in polar or arctic lands. If precession is a recent phenomenon,
large-scale cyclical theories based on its invariance are null and void.

All of this may seem mean-spirited,
for it undermines many cherished assumptions, but that is not the case. There
is a positive joy in this kind of research. The material is philosophically
challenging, the parade of characters fascinating. Some of them may be rogues,
paranoiacs, deluded and deluding, but what else do we find in profane history? This
study, like no other, stretches the imagination over all of space, from
Mediterranean islands through crustal shifts and crashing moons, right up to
the center of the galaxy. It ranges over all of time, from the dawn of the
historical period back to the birthday of this present earth. And as we
reimagine the past, so we help to form our future.  


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