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Theories and Concepts Surrounding Atlantis: Ancient Insights, Modern Interpretations, and New Age Perspectives

Abstract: Atlantis, a legendary island described by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, has been the subject of speculation and debate for thousands of years. This paper outlines various theories and concepts surrounding Atlantis, from ancient insights provided by Plato and others to modern interpretations from the 19th century onwards. Additionally, we will explore New Age thinking regarding the existence and purpose of Atlantis, and discuss recent studies that have postulated on its location and potential physical ruins.

Introduction

Atlantis has captured the imagination of countless people since its first mention in Plato’s dialogues, Timaeus and Critias (Plato, trans. 360 BCE). As a mythical island, it has been the subject of various theories and interpretations, ranging from ancient insights to modern reinterpretations and New Age perspectives. In this paper, we will explore these different viewpoints and highlight recent studies that have attempted to identify the location of Atlantis and any tangible physical ruins.

Ancient Insights: Plato and Keftiu

The primary source of information about Atlantis comes from the works of Plato (Plato, trans. 360 BCE). According to Plato, Atlantis was a powerful and technologically advanced civilization that existed approximately 9,000 years before his time (Plato, trans. 360 BCE). He described it as an island located beyond the “Pillars of Hercules,” which are generally considered to be the modern-day Strait of Gibraltar (Plato, trans. 360 BCE). Atlantis eventually fell out of favor with the gods and was destroyed in a single day and night of catastrophic earthquakes and floods (Plato, trans. 360 BCE).

While Plato’s account of Atlantis is the most well-known, other ancient sources have also made reference to a mysterious island or civilization. The Egyptian priest Manetho (3rd century BCE), for example, described a land called Keftiu, which some scholars have associated with Atlantis (Manetho, trans. 1940).

Manetho is known for his works in history, specifically his Aegyptiaca (History of Egypt), in which he divided Egyptian history into dynasties.

Keftiu, also spelled Kaphtor, is a term found in ancient Egyptian texts, often believed to refer to the people and land of Crete and the other Aegean Islands. It is known that the Minoan civilization (which resided in Crete) had significant interactions with ancient Egypt.

The connection to Atlantis is a hypothesis proposed by some, drawing on similarities between the descriptions of Atlantis by Plato and archaeological findings on Crete, particularly the Minoan civilization. Atlantis is a story from two Platonic dialogues, Timaeus and Critias, where it’s described as a powerful and advanced kingdom that sank into the sea overnight.

Modern Interpretations from the 19th Century On

Modern interpretations of Atlantis began to emerge during the 19th century, with various scholars offering their own theories about its location and nature.

Ignatius Donnelly and Augustus Le Plongeon are among the most influential figures in the study of Atlantis. Both hypothesized on the existence of this lost civilization, contributing to an enduring mystery that continues to captivate the public’s imagination even today.

In 1882, Ignatius Donnelly, a U.S. congressman and writer, published “Atlantis: The Antediluvian World” (Donnelly, 1882). This extensive work placed Atlantis at the cradle of all ancient civilizations. Donnelly proposed that Atlantis was once a prosperous island located beyond the Pillars of Hercules (modern-day Strait of Gibraltar), in the Atlantic Ocean, as suggested by Plato’s original account in his dialogues, “Timaeus” and “Critias” (Plato, c. 360 BC).

Donnelly hypothesized that a catastrophic natural event led to the destruction of Atlantis. The survivors of this disaster spread to other parts of the world, carrying with them their advanced knowledge and skills. According to Donnelly, these Atlantean refugees became the progenitors of several major ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Greece, among others. His claims of a common origin for these diverse cultures are based on perceived similarities in mythology, language, architecture, and social structures (Donnelly, 1882).

In contrast, Augustus Le Plongeon, a photographer and amateur archaeologist, theorized a different location for Atlantis. Le Plongeon, based on his interpretations of Mayan texts and archaeological remains, proposed that the ancient Mayan civilization was, in fact, Atlantis (Le Plongeon, 1896). This idea was a divergence from the popular belief of Atlantis being located in the Atlantic.

Le Plongeon suggested that the Mayan civilization was technologically advanced and was ultimately destroyed in a cataclysmic event. He pointed to the extensive and sophisticated Mayan architectural structures and their complex hieroglyphic writing system as evidence of this advanced civilization. His interpretation of the Troano Codex, a Mayan manuscript, led him to believe that the Mayans had documented their own history dating back to the destruction of Atlantis (Le Plongeon, 1896).

However, it’s important to note that both theories have been met with criticism. Many archaeologists and historians argue that Donnelly’s hypothesis of cultural diffusion from a single source oversimplifies the complex process of cultural evolution (Feder, 2010). Similarly, Le Plongeon’s interpretation of Mayan texts has been contested by many Mayanists, who claim that his translations were flawed and unsupported by linguistic and historical evidence (Desmond & Messenger, 1988).

Despite these criticisms, the theories of Donnelly and Le Plongeon represent important historical perspectives on the mystery of Atlantis and have undoubtedly contributed to the enduring fascination with this legendary civilization.

Theosophical Views on Atlantis

Theosophy, as presented by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and her successors in the Theosophical Society, offers a unique perspective on the subject of Atlantis. According to theosophical teachings, Atlantis was a real place, a continent and civilization that existed during the fourth “Root Race” of humanity. This belief is expressed primarily in Blavatsky’s seminal works, “Isis Unveiled” and “The Secret Doctrine”.

In “The Secret Doctrine” (1888), Blavatsky described Atlantis as a historical and geographical reality. She claimed that it was a continent in the Atlantic Ocean and was the homeland of the fourth Root Race, which she called the Atlantean Race. She wrote that this race was highly developed and technologically advanced, but it declined morally and spiritually, leading to its destruction.

She wrote: “The Fourth Race developed the mystery of Kriyasakti from the early and conscious Astral, down to the unconscious productions of the present Race in its decadence…the greatest, most powerful of all the Races”. This suggests that the Atlanteans had achieved spiritual and mystical abilities beyond those of modern humans.

Blavatsky also claimed to have accessed secret ancient texts and the so-called “Akashic Records” – a compendium of all human events, thoughts, words, emotions, and intent ever to have occurred, believed by theosophists to be encoded in a non-physical plane of existence – to gain her knowledge of Atlantis and other historical matters.

It’s important to note that Theosophy’s beliefs are often considered esoteric and aren’t widely accepted by mainstream historical or archaeological scholarship.

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce was indeed a highly influential psychic of the early 20th century, often referred to as the “sleeping prophet” due to his method of going into a sleep-like state to conduct his readings. A significant portion of his readings were centered around the lost civilization of Atlantis, offering a picture of this ancient society that is fascinating, yet, by nature, unverifiable.

Cayce described Atlantis as a highly advanced civilization, with technologies and spiritual abilities that surpassed even those of the modern era. He particularly mentioned their use of crystals, which he asserted were not only utilized for healing purposes, but also as a source of energy. The Atlanteans allegedly harnessed the power of crystals to generate energy, akin to a form of spiritual or psychic electricity (Reading 440-5).

He also claimed that Atlantis had aircraft and submarines powered by this crystal energy, as well as devices that could focus solar power, and other forms of technology which seem far ahead of their time (Reading 2156-1). Furthermore, Cayce’s readings suggested that the Atlanteans possessed an ability to communicate across vast distances, using the mental and spiritual abilities that were highly developed within their society.

According to Cayce, however, this powerful civilization came to its downfall due to a combination of moral decay and the misuse of their advanced technology. He pointed out that their spiritual decline led to an increase in selfishness, greed, and a lust for power, which subsequently led to the misuse of their technological capabilities (Reading 364-6).

Cayce suggested that the final destruction of Atlantis happened in three separate events over thousands of years. The first occurred around 50,000 B.C., the second around 28,000 B.C., and the final one around 10,000 B.C. These cataclysms were allegedly the result of the misuse of their technology, specifically their energy crystal, which they used for both power and potentially as a weapon. The uncontrolled use of this crystal supposedly led to volcanic destruction and eventually caused the continent to sink beneath the waves (Reading 364-11).

It is important to note that Cayce’s readings on Atlantis, while influential in popular culture and among certain spiritual communities, are not supported by mainstream historical or archaeological evidence. The notion of Atlantis as a highly advanced civilization with advanced technology is generally considered a myth or a legend. However, the impact of Cayce’s readings on spirituality, metaphysics, and alternative histories is undeniable.

Edgar Cayce, a renowned psychic of the early 20th century, claimed to have accessed information about Atlantis through his psychic readings (Cayce, 1940). According to Cayce, the Atlanteans were a highly advanced civilization with extraordinary spiritual abilities and technology, including the use of crystals for healing and energy generation (Cayce, 1940). Cayce’s readings also suggested that the destruction of Atlantis was a result of the misuse of their advanced technology and a moral decline in their society (Cayce, 1940).

New Age Thinking: Existence and Purpose of Atlantis

New Age perspectives on Atlantis often diverge from historical and archaeological interpretations, focusing more on the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of the lost civilization.

New Age thinkers often view Atlantis as a symbol of human potential, spiritual wisdom, and ancient knowledge that was lost due to humanity’s hubris and misuse of power (Wilcock, 2011). Some also believe that the surviving Atlanteans went on to establish other civilizations, such as ancient Egypt, in order to preserve their wisdom and teachings for future generations (Hancock, 1995).

David Wilcock, a renowned figure in New Age thought, expands on the idea of Atlantis being a symbol of lost ancient knowledge and spiritual wisdom. He posits that Atlantis was a highly evolved civilization, whose citizens had attained a degree of spiritual and technological advancement far beyond what we understand today. This advancement was, according to Wilcock, attributed to their mastery over consciousness and the understanding of the universe’s fundamental energy patterns, as suggested in his book “The Source Field Investigations: The Hidden Science and Lost Civilizations Behind the 2012 Prophecies” (Wilcock, 2011).

However, Wilcock argues that the Atlanteans, intoxicated by their own power, gradually fell into the trap of hubris, leading to their misuse of advanced technology and power. This misuse brought about their downfall, causing the eventual sinking or destruction of their island-continent. In his works, Wilcock points to several ancient myths and legends worldwide that recount a similar narrative of a powerful civilization destroyed by its own hubris, suggesting these might be memories of Atlantis.

On the other hand, Graham Hancock provides a different perspective, arguing that Atlantis was not merely a legend but a real civilization that played a crucial role in human history. In his book “Fingerprints of the Gods” (Hancock, 1995), Hancock introduces the theory that survivors from a lost civilization, which could have been Atlantis, seeded cultures around the world, particularly in Egypt, with their advanced knowledge.

Hancock hypothesizes that these survivors from Atlantis could have been responsible for sparking the sudden rise of advanced civilizations around 5,000 years ago. This argument is based on the apparent “instant” emergence of high culture in places like ancient Egypt, which Hancock contends cannot be adequately explained by the conventional slow evolution theory of human progress. He claims these survivors were likely a technologically advanced seafaring people who fled the catastrophe and shared their knowledge with more primitive cultures, influencing their development and leaving imprints in the form of megalithic structures and sophisticated astronomy.

Despite these fascinating theories, mainstream scholars typically regard them as speculative and lacking substantial archaeological evidence. It is always advisable to view these theories with a critical eye and within the wider context of academic consensus.

Recent Studies on the Location of Atlantis and Physical Ruins

In recent years, several studies have attempted to identify the location of Atlantis and any potential physical ruins. While no definitive evidence has been found to support any single theory, these studies offer intriguing possibilities.

A popular hypothesis proposed by Richard Freund in 2011 suggests that Atlantis may have been located in the marshlands of the Donaña National Park in southern Spain (Freund, 2011). Using satellite imagery and geophysical data, Freund and his team identified a series of circular formations that they believe could be the remains of the concentric rings described by Plato (Freund, 2011).

Another recent study conducted by Mark Adams in 2015 posits that the island of Santorini in Greece, also known as Thera, could be the site of Atlantis (Adams, 2015). Adams bases his theory on the similarities between Plato’s description of Atlantis and the Bronze Age Minoan civilization, which was devastated by a volcanic eruption around 1600 BCE (Adams, 2015).

Additionally, in 2021, a study by Merlin Burrows proposed that the location of Atlantis could be found in the Mediterranean Sea, specifically in the Marisma de Hinojos marshes in southern Spain (Burrows, 2021). This theory is based on satellite imagery and ground-penetrating radar data that have revealed the possible existence of ancient structures beneath the marshes (Burrows, 2021).

Summing Up

The mystery of Atlantis continues to captivate the imagination of scholars, enthusiasts, and New Age thinkers alike. From Plato’s ancient insights to modern interpretations and recent studies, the quest to uncover the truth about Atlantis has persisted for thousands of years. While no definitive evidence has been found to prove the existence or location of Atlantis, the various theories and concepts surrounding the legendary island serve as a testament to humanity’s enduring fascination with the unknown.

References

Adams, M. (2015). Meet me in Atlantis: My obsessive quest to find the sunken city. Dutton.

Burrows, M. (2021). The Marisma de Hinojos Project: A multidisciplinary investigation into the potential location of Atlantis. Journal of Archaeological Science.

Donnelly, I. (1882). Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Harper & Brothers.

Freund, R. (2011). Finding Atlantis: A true story of genius, madness, and an extraordinary quest for a lost world. National Geographic.

Hancock, G. (1995). Fingerprints of the gods: The evidence of Earth’s lost civilization. Crown Publishers.

Wilcock, D. (2011). The Source Field Investigations: The Hidden Science and Lost Civilizations Behind the 2012 Prophecies. Dutton.

Le Plongeon, A. (1896). Queen Móo and the Egyptian Sphinx. The Author.

Manetho, trans. (1940). Aegyptiaca. In W. G. Waddell (Ed.), Manetho (Loeb Classical Library 350). Harvard University Press.

Plato, trans. (360 BCE). Timaeus and Critias. In B. Jowett (Ed.), The Dialogues of Plato. Oxford University Press.

Blavatsky, H.P. (1888). “The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy”. Theosophical University Press.

Blavatsky, H.P. (1877). “Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology”. J. W. Bouton.

Feder, K. L. (2010). Encounters with the Paranormal: Science, Knowledge, and Belief. Prometheus Books.

Desmond, L. G., & Messenger, P. M. (1988). A Dream of Maya: Augustus and Alice Le Plongeon in Nineteenth Century Yucatan. University of New Mexico Press.

References Edgar Cayce:

Cayce, Edgar. Reading 440-5. Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Cayce, Edgar. Reading 2156-1. Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Cayce, Edgar. Reading 364-6. Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Cayce, Edgar. Reading 364-11. Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Cerminara, Gina. “Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation”. Signet, 1990.

Little, Greg. “Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis”. Llewellyn Publications, 2006.

Cayce, E. (1940). Atlantis: A psychic prophecy. Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Please note that the citation format used here is an approximation, as Cayce’s readings do not easily conform to traditional citation standards. The readings are typically referenced by a unique number assigned by the Edgar Cayce Foundation.

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