Saturday, October 20, 2018

A moderately sunken continent

Lewis Spence was a Scottish scholar of mythology and folklore with occult sympathies. I´m not sure if he was a Theosophist or a Golden Dawn supporter. He was definitely interested in Atlantis, penning several books on the subject. “The History of Atlantis” was published in 1926. While Spence´s speculations about Atlantis are considered pseudo-science or at least “on the fringe” by mainstream archeologists (if they ever heard of them), he is actually situated on the more moderate part of the Atlantomaniac spectrum. So am I! Spence´s Atlantis has no connection to aliens or fusion technology, and at least in this book, not even to occultism per se. Rather, he sees it as an advanced Stone Age civilization, presumably a somewhat grander version of the megalithic cultures of the European mainland, which eventually developed into a Bronze Age culture before disappearing. The book was written before the theory of continental drift became accepted, and the only way to explain similarities between animal or plant life at continents far apart was to postulate the existence of ancient land bridges. In other words, “sunken continents”. To Spence, Atlantis was a large island in the Atlantic Ocean, spanning the area from the Canary Islands all the way to the Sargasso Sea. Thus, his speculations were at least borderline orthodox as far as the geology is concerned.

Spence believes that humans in Europe during the Paleolithic were fairly advanced, as seen in their cave art, burial practices and something the author sees as a primordial writing system. Spence further holds that mummification and hence a belief in resurrection comes from Atlantis, and that the Cro Magnon culture had such beliefs. Later, they show up in both the Americas and Egypt, a sign of Atlantean cultural influence. The Druids (who, however, didn´t mummify their dead) are also connected to Atlantis in this scenario. Various mystery religions are postulated to have emerged on the lost continent. So is the cult of the Titans. To some extent, Spence uses Atlantis as a kind of “deux ex machina” which explains the origins of every archeological anomaly. He is actually forced to change Plato´s chronology, placing the demise of Atlantis much later in order to use it as a proto-Egyptian, proto-Minoan and proto-Mesoamerican founder culture (today, other Atlantis researchers do the opposite: they assume that the civilization of Egypt emerged much earlier than the so-called Bronze Age, thus aligning it more closely with Plato´s original dates).

Spence also speculates that Atlantis was invaded, perhaps several times, by cultures emerging in Northwest Africa. One such invasion was Berber in character, and the Guanches of the Canary Islands were its descendants. So was the Azilian culture of Mesolithic Spain. Atlantis, or perhaps its colonies in Morrocco, was also attacked by Amazons! Spence essentially attempts to harmonize various Greek legends about the Atlas region in Northwest Africa, trying to place them into a meaningful chronological sequence. This is logical if you believe that myth is a garbled form of real history, less logical otherwise. Inevitably, Britain is seen as important, with the author expressing considerable interests in Welsh legends about sunken continents in the Atlantic. Occultism is mentioned only in passing, as when Spence admonishes the Theosophists to study Western traditions rather than “Oriental” or Egyptian ones, which the author believes are merely derivative. Atlantis, the Druids and the Arthurian romances are said to express pure occultism…

I haven´t read the other books about Atlantis by the same author, but I´m sure they are just as interesting and could function as an antidote to the more outlandish speculations about the lost land. While I´m not willing to support every single one of Lewis Spence´s ideas, I do believe the Lost Civilization crowd is on to something, perhaps something huge, and I´m therefore relatively positive to this material.

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