“There is a magic in names.
And the mightiest among these words of magic is Atlantis.
It is as if this vision of a lost culture touched the most hidden thought of our soul.”
Atlantis fever comes in waves. Ok I really didn’t mean for that to be a pun, but it’s a good one! And there’s a rhyme to boot. I’m on a roll.
The first time Atlantis appeared in “popular culture” was when Plato wrote about it in Ancient Greece. Being the star student of Socrates, he had a lot of literary clout. His detailed description of a civilization punished by the gods for their arrogance has carved Atlantis a revolving role in antiquity. It’s been postulated that the Library of Alexandria had records of Atlantis, but alas, all the records were burned. Perhaps it was mostly forgotten after the fall of the Roman Empire when Europe plummeted into the Dark Ages. Though I’m sure in the 1400s when European explorers set out onto the ocean, they had the notion of discovering Atlantis. Back in those days, it was accepted as historical truth.
It was in 1516 when Sir Thomas More published Utopia that Atlantis would return to the collective consciousness. His depiction of a fictional land set in the New World of the Americas would plant a seed of influence into Atlantis theory from then on, echoing Plato’s description of a perfect society.
In the 1570s John Dee was busy laying the foundation for modern science in the royal court of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also an astrologer wizard, spy, alchemist, and was said to have amassed a library meant to emulate Alexandria’s. His influence sparked an intellectual explosion during the Elizabethan Era. It was a move toward England’s triumphant return to the enlightenment of ancient Greece and Rome. Such notions would bring expansionism and exploration into the forefront of the British ideal. Expeditions to the Americas had the feeling of discovering the key to an ancient Atlantean past.
From the influence of Dee and More came Sir Francis Bacon, who released another Utopian novel in 1627 called The New Atlantis. Again, the Americas were the focus of the ancient legend. As with the other times Atlantis was on the tip of every tongue, it came hand in hand with occultism and philosophy. Emerging from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance, knowledge had become popular once more, but intellectuals still had the church to contend with, so secret societies such as the Hermetics and the Rosicrucians studied the occult and the secret past of humanity behind closed doors.
The next few hundred years led to the rise of Mayanism. Most of the work on Atlantis was speculative, and even though it led to fascinating similarities between the ruins of ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica, the conclusions of explorers were often discredited. While humans around the globe were breaking free of monarchy and feudalism through war and revolution, it seems like there was little time for salons discussing the puzzle of the ancient past. But once the Victorian Era of the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution kicked up a surge of technological advancement, the next wave of Atlantis craze dazzled western culture.
In the 1850s a spiritualist fad swept across England. A group called the Theosophists resurrected tales of humanity’s mysterious lost past. This led to a number of scholars sharing their theories with the world. Their work was considered pseudo-science. In 1882, a retired American politician named Ignatius Donnelley published a book called Atlantis: the Antediluvian world. The book became so popular that Atlantis became a household word.
Back in jolly old England, Along with H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and was inventing Science Fiction with works like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where Captain Nemo was checking out the ancient ruins of Atlantis in his submarine. Journey to the Center of the Earth explored the concept of the Hollow Earth, which would also figure into Atlantis theory in times to come. The most noted depiction of the hollow earth Atlantis in modern times is Disney’s 2001 animated movie entitled Atlantis: The Lost Empire. This movie remains to date one of the best researched Atlantis films. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By the 1930s the channel Edgar Cayce was recording hundreds of past life readings in Atlantis. He was known as the Sleeping Prophet because he would go into a trance and access information from the Akashic Records, a 4th dimensional record of all human knowledge. You just can’t make this stuff up! He recorded great details about a highly advanced culture that had vast crystal technology and flying ships. This was quite different than what was previously postulated. But the idea began to sink in.
In the 1940s, talk of Atlantis became dangerous. It was Adolph Hitler and his buddy Heinrich Himmler who started to really believe in the legend. But their theory brought about white supremacy, as they thought that Aryans were a superior race meant to inherit the legacy and global domination of the ancient civilization. They coupled their theories with Utopia and the occult, thus the use of the mystical swastika as their symbol. It would taint the legend, but it wouldn’t be held down for long. The irony of the “superior white descendants of Atlantis” rests in the argument that Atlanteans were Mayans and Egyptians, who were definitely not white. But that’s another discussion.
After the fall of the Nazis, Atlantis went into hiding again only to re-emerge in the 1950s and 60s. The legend now left the arena of parlor discussions, and started to embed itself into popular culture, making its appearance in books, films magazines, comics and songs. In America especially, it has become a household world, even though most people don’t really know its origins.
In the 1980s, the New Age movement popularized occultism yet again, and with it came its natural dance partner, Atlantis. The Esoterics have multiplied, as spiritual channelers such as Diana Cooper, Phylos the Tibetan, and Barbara Marciniak have expanded on Cayce's vision of an advanced culture run by ancient alien technology and crystals. Of course, the popularity of the show “Ancient Aliens” has catapulted these theories into every day conversations. The secular lineage has also increased since many oceanographic surveys have uncovered the ruins of underwater cities, perpetuating a debate over which one is Atlantis. Atlantis gets “discovered” all the time. Check out my post about where it might be.
There is also no shortage of maverick archaeology tracing the roots of our mysterious ancient past. Graham Hancock and David Hatcher Childress are two of my favorites in this realm. Though none of it is “accepted” as truth, it sure does strike a chord of intrigue.
My work, Shadows of Atlantis, is a time-honored tradition that dates back to Ancient Greece. I have inherited the legacy of the legend as a philosopher and occultist. It has been my honor to trace the roots of this mystery that extend so deep into our collective psyche, it has easily spanned a lifetime of research, and I have still barely scratched the surface.
Despite whether the legend is true or not, it serves as a warning to us all. It is a grand argument about the achievement of perfection in society. As we advance, we must take care to rise above hubris and entitlement, or else we will blindly bumble our way to utter destruction. Atlantis is an echo of a memory. The truth of the matter is there are megalithic ruins all over the planet. Though science has attempted to explain them, they are still far older and far more advanced than what is being admitted. Fascinating, right? This is only the beginning.
In honor of the release of Aquaman, which I’m very excited about, my next blog post will discuss its journey through modern pop culture, and how it turned into an advanced underwater kingdom of fish people. Stay tuned. Sign up on my website for info about my books. I can guarantee you a good time. 😉
P.S. I included a lot of links to Wikipedia in this article. Please make sure and donate to them every once in a while. $3.oo here and there really helps further the cause of free knowledge for all.
Mara Powers is author of the Shadows of Atlantis saga. An Atlantis researcher for almost 3 decades, she incorporates all her knowledge into an epic fantasy saga set in the final age of Atlantis. www.shadowsofatlantis.com